Do bad things happen to good people? Absolutely! No one is immune to tragedy, misfortune, or the random calamities of life (Eccl 9:11). Yet, why do some people become victors and others become victims? Where do the victors find their strength and endurance to overcome? What do victims lack in their view of the situation? More importantly, how can the victims become victors?
The Bible gives us several situations in which faithful men struggled with the victim mentality during certain periods of their lives. For example, Elijah fled to the wilderness when an angry queen threatened his life. Alone and depressed, he cried, “It is enough; now O Lord take away my life” (1 Kings 19:4). Jacob feared the revenge of the Canaanites when his sons became vigilantes after their sister was defiled. Throwing his hands up in surrender, he said, “I will be destroyed…and my household” (Genesis 34:30). Job flung himself upon the earth and cried, “Why did I not die at birth” (Job 3:11) in the midst of his agonizing pain and suffering.
Many situations exist today that can easily cause one to feel victimized in the midst of leading a godly life. Financial misfortune, death of a loved one, terminal illness, rejection by a child or another family member, infidelity of a spouse, and mistreatment from brethren certainly cause deep wounds and physical hurt. The trials of life may make one want to quit his walk with the Lord because the pain is so deep.
Yet the Lord also gives examples of those who did not succumb to the victim mentality and as a result conquered life’s challenges.
Esther, a beautiful Jewish orphan, became queen of the Persian Empire. At first glance this “rags to riches” story might appear to be every girl’s dream. However this was far from the case. Her family situation was not ideal. Her nationality was not ideal. Her arranged marriage was far from ideal.
Haman, a reprobate administrator, persuaded the gullible king to destroy all the Jews due to his intense hatred for Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. If she approached the king (her husband) uninvited would he approve? Could she hide the fact she was Jewish? Could she remain in the palace while her people were being destroyed?
Esther used four strategies that could also be used today to deal with difficult situations.
1. Consider reality. Esther needed the prompting of her Uncle Mordecai to accept the gravity of her situation. She could not pretend she would escape the genocide just because she was in the palace. She had to plead for her people before the king. Reality meant she had to risk losing her life by going before the throne uninvited. “If I perish, I perish” she said (Esther 4:16).
Reality is accepting that life is not fair. Reality is standing up for truth can require risks. Reality is this world is consumed with pain and misery. Reality is we are all sinners and worthy of death (Romans 3:23). Reality is our sinless Lord paid the penalty so we could be freed from eternal pain and sorrow (Rev 7:16-17).
2. Consider possible sin. Esther’s challenge was originated and perpetuated by Haman. She had to identify to the king the source of her trouble.
Our foe may not be as recognizable. One must examine the difficulties of life to see if sin is involved and if our challenges are the result of sinful behavior. If they are we must repent. In addition we must deal with other sins (our own) that might develop because of our unwillingness to deal with the challenge. Anger, jealousy, bitterness, self-pity, or pride can fill our hearts and give the devil an open door (Eph 4:27). When these dangers arise we have to move on by offering forgiveness. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you and all malice…. Forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32).
3. Consider the impact on others. Esther’s actions in dealing with the death plot affected millions of people.
Our circle of influence may not be as large, yet our reaction to life’s challenges can also affect other people: spouse, kids, friends, co-workers, and or brethren. Any or all of these can be built up or brought down by our reaction to the challenge.
The commands to “love your neighbor” and “serve others” are not nullified by our circumstances. In fact, these can be the forces that keep us going. As a wise preacher once advised a younger preacher struggling with the victim mentality, “Get busy. It’s not about you in the first place.”
4. Consider the future. Mordecai ultimately moved Esther with these words, “Who knows if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
She had not asked to be in this situation just like Joseph had not asked to be sold into slavery. But, she accepted her plight. Like Joseph, she saved many souls.
God is always more powerful than the pain. Even in the midst of pain opportunities for growth may arise. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). When God tells us He will not allow us to be “tempted beyond what we are able” do we believe Him? (1 Corinthians 10:13). Have we considered the possibility that He has a greater purpose for us that may only be formulated in adversity?
Esther’s name means “star.” She chose to shine her courageous light in a dark world of suffering and pain. May we follow her example as we fight the “victim mentality” in our own lives and choose to become victorious over this world’s challenges.