Words of LIFE - Weekly Devotional
I’m A Victim, How About You?
by Randy Robison
"When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." (James 1:2, NLT)
There is a contemporary thought in the church that I have always found illogical and troublesome. It goes something like this: happiness is temporary and fleeting, but joy is a deeper, more permanent condition. On the surface, that makes sense. I may not be happy with the weather, my financial condition or an important relationship, yet I can still have joy. But a common extrapolation of that idea is the notion that I can have “the joy of the Lord” and be completely unhappy. In the name of being “real,” Christians can really be miserable people. Somehow, this just seems wrong.
After contemplating the idea and reading some writings on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that it is not only right for Christians to be happy, but it’s our responsibility. If Paul and Silas can sing praises in jail (and I don’t think they were faking it), then why can’t we be happy whatever our circumstances? I don’t see how we can be a good witness for Christ and a light in a dark world when we lack something as basic as happiness.
Dennis Prager, a Jewish scholar and national radio show host, has written what I consider to be the definitive book on happiness called Happiness Is a Serious Problem. He believes that one of the greatest obstacles to happiness is an attitude of victimhood. He points out that someone with a victim mentality feels like their life is determined by others. He says that this belief leads to anger, an addiction to self-pity and an unhealthy craving for sympathy—all of which render happiness impossible.
“In our time,” Prager asserts, “the problem of regarding oneself primarily as a victim is not, ironically, so much a problem among actual victims…as it is among people who have decided to see themselves as victims.”
We all know someone like that. I’ve worked with people who blame their boss or company for preventing them from advancing professionally. I fight against it with my son who blames the teacher for every bad grade he makes. I’ve struggled with it personally by allowing my marriage to be less than it should be—and, of course, it’s her fault!
All of this is self-imposed unhappiness. It’s easier to blame others than it is to deal with the natural obstacles in life and confront our own deficiencies. The worker who is unhappy in his or her job has to take action to change the situation. The student who fails to comprehend a lesson must proactively study or seek help in order to make the grade. And me, I have to realize that a good marriage takes work and that I am the God-ordained leader who must not settle for anything less than His best in all of my relationships. This is often difficult. It requires effort, honesty and a considerable dose of humility. Playing the part of the victim is much easier.
Of course, even when we forsake the victim mentality and take charge of our lives, there is no guarantee that everything will work out perfectly every time. But when we live in obedience to God, allowing Him to guide our thoughts, words and actions, we are able to “count it all joy” and possess a “peace that passes understanding” in every situation. In this, there is true happiness.
Dr. A.R. Bernard, pastor of the largest church in New York City and a brilliant thinker, wrote in his book Happiness Is…, “It’s amazing how many people, especially those who portray themselves as ‘victims,’ conclude that the lives they’re experiencing have been chosen for them. But they’re mistaken. In truth, their lives—all of our lives—are composed of our choices…and we become servants to the choices we make.”
God does not intend us to be emotional slaves to our circumstances. He expects us to consciously choose the right response to every situation and trust Him to cause “everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
When we do this, we are not victims. We become agents of positive change—salt and light in this world. Then we not only claim to have joy, but we truly possess a visible and attractive quality: happiness.
Do you ever play the part of the victim? Remove every obstacle to happiness and focus on making the right choice in every situation—even the seemingly insignificant ones.
“Lord, you are my joy. Be my happiness, too. Help me choose wisely in everything, then trust you in the results.”