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Reflective Study On Victimhood and the Need for Hope

Reflective Study On Victimhood and the Need for Hope

Living in hope while resisting the temptation of victimhood can be the hurt person’s most significant struggle. Hope is vital when bad things happen to any of us. Too often, legitimate victims place their hope on the wrong things, even if it’s anger or revenge. These inferior hopes do not have to be wrong, but they are not redemptive. False hope never provides what you need. Thus, these victims embark on a journey of ever-changing hopes until they find the one right answer. I was one of these victims.

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Where Is God In This?

There is a spiritual element to the problem of finding the right hope, albeit it is mysterious and subjective. One way you may think about this is by asking, how much is God working behind the scenes, helping you to find the right hope? I cannot answer this question for you satisfactorily. What I do know is that there is an interplay between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Christians are in a relationship with God; we’re not robots with no free will.

Admittedly, I don’t understand this interplay because it takes me to the limits of my mental capacity. Each time I get to that mysterious spot with the Lord, I see a sign that says, “Stop, go no farther.” The wise recourse is to obey the rules of sovereignty: stop, trust, and rest. You must know that you cannot know all that you want to know about God’s role in your life or your responsibility to cooperate with Him. What you do know is that there is something very different from how God works and how you operate; He’s Sovereign Lord, and you are not.

So, you rest as much as one redeemed, but fallen soul can when pondering the interplay between the finite and the infinite. Still, you wonder how much God is guiding you through the corn maze of life. Though He permits you to make decisions, He is the Author, writing a narrative that is leading you to the hope you must have to survive. In theology, we call this journey “progressive sanctification,” which is the macro view. But when you go back to your maze, it’s mission-critical that you rest in knowing that you submit your best decisions to God’s ultimate guidance.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Assess –

  1. In what way do you struggle with God’s sovereignty and your responsibility to cooperate with Him?
  2. What were some of your “inferior hopes” before you found the ultimate rest in God as the object of your faith?
  3. What were some of the things the Lord did to wrest your false hopes from you, as He was teaching you to trust in Him? How did you respond to the scalpel and the plow as He tilled your soul to bring redemptive fruit (John 12:24)?

Rick's BooksThe Hope of a Child

Trusting God is an “imperfect science.” Every person places their hope in the wrong things, especially their “early hopes.” You could say that your hope is always evolving until you make it to the Lord, your ultimate aspiration. Don’t beat up yourself because of your growing, but imperfect, relationship with the Lord. Embrace it! We’re all in that boat. Most of us begin our journey to God poorly, as we go from false hope to false hope until we find the Lord.

For example, when I was a child, I latched onto many things that became my hope. I did this because I was not a believer. And I was immature and “sovereignly dependent” on others to do what I could not do for myself. My early hopes were very much human—a fallen human at that, so I trusted my parents to guide me. I needed their help; I also had other authorities in my life like my teachers. These folks were supposed to be my salvation.

Was I wrong to depend on my authority figures as a youngster? No. Of course, it would have been great if my parents had stepped up to the responsibility of leading me well. I wish they had told me that they had a limited and fallen role in my life. And that God had exclusive rights and control over my life, and that until I fully submitted to Him, I would never be happy.

Assess – 

  1. What authority figures let you down during your childhood? What were some of the lingering effects of those disappointments?
  2. Do you continue to struggle with these things from your childhood? How many years has it been?
  3. What does your struggle reveal about you and your relationship with God?

The Reason I Stopped Hating My Dad

Hanging Onto False Hopes

My parents did me a disservice. They not only failed in teaching me these deeper, albeit practically transforming truths about life, relationships, and ultimate hope, but they failed in their limited, fallen responsibility of stewarding their call to parent me to God. They dashed my hope in familial and authoritative structures. They obliterated any reasonable human hope that I should have had.

Their collective failures at parenting, stewarding, training, leading, and shaping a child sent me reeling and scurrying to find hope in whatever I could hang onto, even if it were a few thin threads that would carry me from childhood to adulthood. My scurrying led me to another hope, a false one. It was my new “salvific strategy.” Isolation.

I isolated myself from the horrific-ness of my early childhood. This season was the first time that I felt the double sting of anger and victimhood—a deadly duo. The television, walks in the woods, and other pseudo attempts to hide in plain sight only deepen my dysfunction while entangling me into the intricated, complicatedness of my mind. By the time I was fifteen, my strategy had landed me in jail.

Assess – 

  1. If your parents failed you more than “normal parents” do, what strategies and tactics did you employ to feel a sense of hope?
  2. If the Lord was not your “strategy,” what were some of the consequences for bouncing from one lousy hope to another?
  3. Is Christ your ultimate hope now? If not, will you talk to someone to find help in “getting to Him?”

My Strength Is My Hope

You would think that five days in solitary would be a wake-up call for anyone. Not me. My stubbornness, rebellion, and victimhood were at an all-time high. The accumulation of disappointments from others can blind you to personal responsibility and all sober, self-awareness, which is worse when there is a trace of legitimacy to your claim as a victim. The burden of my five-day stint in the slammer did motivate me to make a slight auto-correction. Regrettably, it was not God who became my hope.

I knew that I could not do what I had been doing, which would only lead me to similar results. So I shifted from a life of crime to the life of a hard-worker. I used my God-given work ethic to find significance. I was not handsome, so girls were never an option. I was not intelligent, so finding acceptance through academics was out, too. I had one shot, which was to double-down on my insatiable desire to fill my love cup by becoming a hard-working teenager. It worked! My newfound hope was in my ability to perform for applause.

Index forward ten years: I found Jesus, and brought my hard-working, self-reliance into my fundamentalist culture. I was ready-made to be a legalist. I went from zero to super-spiritual in 60-seconds. I was “head and shoulders” above (1 Samuel 9:2) my “fundy colleagues” because I had a more expansive list of rules, preferences, and practices that put a super-shine on my holiness. It was inevitable: I became a preacher. “My (love) cup runneth over.”

Assess –

  1. Paul talked about bringing your “former manner of life” into your salvation experience (Ephesians 4:22). What perceived good thing did you bring into your relationship with God that turned into a bad thing?
  2. I brought my work ethic into my salvation experience and blended it into a legalistic, sub-culture of Evangelicalism. What was the result of your “repackaged former manner of life?”
  3. Have you worked through the dysfunction of that process? How did you do it? If you’re still struggling, lingering, attached to your past, perhaps we can help you.

Mastermind TrainingRight Hope, Wrong Outcome

Index forward ten more years: the Jesus that I found at the cross took me into the wilderness and “beat the tar out of me” for a decade. I say this with all respect and gratitude, though that is not how I initially thought about those devastating disappointments with God. I went to Bible college to gain a theological education, and the Lord tossed me in the crucible of suffering to burn the residue of my inferior hopes out of my soul. He’s not finished yet, but when God does “realign you,” it does place you on the right rail.

I’ve had many inferior hopes. Some of them happen with the natural course of life, i.e., parental expectations and school teachers. Others, you stumble upon, which usually has something to do with self-reliance, i.e., work, beauty, intelligence, and social aptitude. Some make you a victim, and others are because you chose them, either ignorantly or willfully. Either way, none of them satisfy. Even the most stubborn person who has spent decades dulling his conscience so he can fain happiness still knows something is amiss.

Even the right religion does not help if you haven’t entirely worked through your former manner of life that you trucked into your relationship with the Lord. For some, like me, it was a couple of tractor-trailer loads of fallen habits that they brought into their experience with Jesus. And this is where it becomes dicey. You can place your hope in the right person and get a different outcome from what you expected.

Assess –

  1. What are some of your disappointments with God? How aware are you of this problem?
  2. The way you can tell if your disappointments are toward God is if you were (or are) angry with Him because you did not get what you wanted. Will you discuss with a friend the interplay between your hope in God and your disappointments as a believer?
  3. Every Christian has had disappointment after God regenerated them. What aspect of this tension has more control over you: hope in God or your disappointment as a Christian?

Your Theology of Suffering

At the heart of this tension are your intellectual understanding and practical application of biblical suffering. I call this a “theology of suffering” because that language fits the issue the best. You could call it “God and your suffering,” which is the proper note you’re looking for to address your disappointments as a believer. Most Christians are weak in this area. You will know this by how they respond to the things they don’t like.

The most proper realignment that you can make is to read Hebrews 11 and place yourself at the most acute crisis point in that passage. And then compare your reaction to your disappointments with how those folks of the faith responded to God and others when things went sideways for them. One of the most vital things you will ever do after God regenerates you is to bolster your understanding and practice of suffering.

If you don’t do this, you will continue to swirl in Christian mediocrity while making a case for why you are correct, God is wrong. Everyone has experienced victimization, and no believer should ever dismiss the hurts of others as a trivial thing. But there is a problem: when the legitimacy of your victim-ness becomes your controlling identity, you’re on the precipice of blindness. From there, it’s a short step to a rationale that will be hard to change.

Call to Action

  1. Describe your hope in God, and talk practically about how it stabilizes you daily?
  2. I have added several “assessment sections” in this article. Have you taken the appropriate time to answer them? If you’re struggling with some of the things in this article, will you work through them, and find a friend to share your thoughts?
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