Sometimes we’re victimized. There isn’t anything we can do about it, that’s what makes us victims! But we don’t have to stay there. As we’ll see today, Jesus often stands, hand extended to us, asking, “Do you want to get well?”
At some point, we have to face Him and find the courage to answer in honesty. We have to decide, do I want to live my life as a victim or victor?
As we search our hearts we very often find we’ve accepted a way of life that just isn’t necessary, and certainly isn’t where God has called us to live. We’ve adopted a victim mentality and in so doing have chosen to reject the healing Jesus offers. We’ve decided we’d rather make excuses, shift the blame, and refuse change because the alternative terrifies us.
So today, we’re digging in to an often under studied Bible story to learn how overcoming victim mentality begins by simply saying yes, and grabbing on to Jesus’s hand.
John 5:1-15 – “Do You Want to Get Well?”
“Do you want to get well?” It seems like the answer would be obvious doesn’t it? Of course, we all want to be well! Don’t we all desire health and healing and wholeness?
But sadly, the hard truth is, many of us have gotten some twisted sort of comfortable in our victim status. It often becomes easier to stay there, to remain a victim forever, than it is to own our part of the problem and choose to accept God’s healing.
In fact, overcoming victim mentality has been a problem for, well, for as long as people have been sinners. But we’re not going back quite that far today. Instead, let’s jump forward a few thousand years and look at how Jesus dealt with a man stuck in victim mentality to help us find guidance and answers in our own struggles to choose between victim or victor.
John 5:1-15 (Click to read in ESV too.)
(NLT) – Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.
Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people – blind, lame, or paralyzed – lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, He asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me in the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!
But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
“Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.
The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”
Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Overcoming Victim Mentality
Can we see ourselves in this story? Do we get caught up in the same traps this man did?
Have we spent our lives needlessly crippled when healing was as close as a simple “yes?” Would we rather remain dependent on others than own our problems and choose healing?
Let’s examine some truths about victim mentality that become evident through this text and evaluate ourselves to answer the question: “Do you want to get well?”
Why Do We Make Excuses?
Victims have an excuse for everything! There’s always a reason they can’t overcome their situation.
It seems a little odd to me for Jesus to have asked the sick man if he wanted to be healed. The answer should have been an understood, “Yes, of course!” But Jesus could see his heart, and He wasn’t going to let this man get away from answering the hard question.
Surprisingly, his answer wasn’t yes at all. Instead, it was an excuse. As soon as the question was asked there was a reason he couldn’t get well. Right away, the answer was, “I can’t.”
The excuses were:
- “I have no one to put me in the pool when the water bubbles up.”
- ” Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Never mind the fact that this man had been in this situation for thirty-eight years! He surely could have found a way into the pool in that time if he really wanted to. But, it would have taken vulnerability and hard work, and it was an ineffective solution in the first place. That water wasn’t going to heal him, even if he did make it in. So he stayed on the sidelines, blaming outside circumstances for his condition because it was easier to make excuses and stay where he was!
Even when Jesus stood before him asking, “Do you want to get well?”
How to Stop Making Excuses and Take Responsibility
Are we any better? How often do we stand before the Great Physician, having been asked if we want to be healed, with the answer, “I can’t”?
Are we too often offering pathetic excuses to the One who makes all things possible? How many times do we claim to be stuck because we can’t support ourselves, or we’re haunted by our past, or no one will help us, or someone might get mad, or a hundred other excuses that take the responsibility off our own shoulders?
Why don’t we just answer yes?
Could the reason be that we don’t actually want to be healed?
Perhaps, like this man, it’s easier for us to make excuses than it is to own our situations. Maybe we’d rather claim there’s no one to help us than admit we don’t want to be helped. Could it be that it is easier to look at others and point to their sins than it is to step out in obedience, take responsibility, and do the hard work, making ourselves vulnerable in the process?
Friends, taking responsibility is as easy as admitting our weaknesses and our sinful desires, and taking Jesus’s hand. He does the healing.
The Psychology of Blaming Others
Another aspect of overcoming victim mentality is realizing victims are never at fault. There’s always someone or something that forced them to make the choices they made. Taking responsibility is not part of the victim’s MO, but blaming others is.
The sick man at the pool shifted blame more than once. First, he blamed his continued illness on the lack of help available. Then, after he was healed, when the religious leaders asked him why he was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, he blamed the man who healed him. “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
But it’s not that hard to understand why he did that, is it?
It feels a lot safer to claim we had no choice, we were just doing what someone else made us do. It’s scary to admit we’re doing something because WE made the choice to do it. If we answer honestly, we might be forced to evaluate why we’re doing what we’re doing, but if we can just blame others we can hide behind their sin and never have to face our own.
Stop Blaming Others
It’s so easy to miss this element of the story. Perhaps it seems like an unimportant detail, but I think it’s monumental because the next thing that happens is Jesus finds the man again and directly warns him, “stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”
Friends, this is certainly not clearly stated in the text, and you can take it or leave it, but I see enough evidence in the way these events unfolded to suggest the man’s sin was his victim mentality. I believe Jesus is saying to him, “Brother, you’re going to have to start owning your life and your decisions, or you’re going to find yourself right back where you were, only even more helpless than before. I have healed you. Now, stay healed!”
Change is the Key, and Change is Hard!
Victims tend to lash out when confronted with their martyrdom. They don’t want to change, because change is hard, so they will do whatever is needed to discredit the source of the confrontation so they can justify remaining in their sin.
Look at the man in this story. What did he do after Jesus confronted him and told him to stop sinning? He went and found the religious leaders and told them it was Jesus who had healed him. Why would he do that? He had already told them he didn’t know who had told him to carry his mat on a Sabbath. Why would he need to seek them out to tell them now?
One possible reason is, he wanted to discredit Jesus’s confrontation and command to stop sinning by turning the religious leaders against Him. If what Jesus had done in healing him was deemed a “sin” by these authorities, then wouldn’t his command to change also be invalid?
Once again, I’m admittedly making a presumption about this story (that you don’t have to accept or agree with) that steps beyond what Scripture has clearly told us. I’m using the text and applying what I know about human behavior. Because the fact is, just because Jesus offers healing, it doesn’t mean people are ready or willing to take it, and just because Jesus heals us, doesn’t mean we will choose to stay healed.
Are You Willing to Change? Do You Want to Get Well?
Regardless of what this man did, we have to ask ourselves: are we willing to change our behavior in order to accept the healing Jesus offers? Are we willing to let go of our victim status in order to let Jesus make us victors? Are we willing to stop looking for the sympathy of others by insisting our situation is impossible and start owning our responsibility to stop sinning, turn to Jesus, and be healed?
Friend, do you want to be well? Will you choose victim or victor?
Victim or Victor? 5 Steps to Accept God’s Healing:
1. Honestly evaluate your situation. Identify your excuses and surrender them to God.
Make a list of the obstacles getting in the way of your healing. How many of them have you blamed on others?
Ask yourself, “Do you want to get well?” Then re-evaluate.
How many of those obstacles do you have a choice in after-all? How many aren’t actually obstacles to YOUR healing?
Now write down a list of the REAL obstacles to your healing, (translation = things you need to own and change) and remember, surrender is active not passive. It’s not just exposing the issue, but deliberately and actively laying it down at the feet of Jesus and walking away from it. It takes work.
2. Commit to never again allow intimidation, fear, or complacency to cause you to be a part of something that is displeasing to God.
Write down some things you know you’ve done that violate this standard.
– Do you lie to your spouse or someone else in order to keep the peace?
– Do you turn to addiction to sooth a childhood trauma?
– Will you fearfully keep silent on issues you know to be bad decision that displease God?
– Have you participated in unhealthy communication out of aggravation?
– Do you blame mental illness for your bad behavior?
– Do you allow yourself to be mistreated out of fear?
It all has to stop. You’ll never heal when you’re continuing to participate in this sin.
3. Ask God to show you the way out, and when He does, take it!
Be obedient. Do the hard work.
– Choose to always, always, ALWAYS be honest, no matter what.
– Stop shifting the blame and own your behavior. Deal with past traumas and move past them.
– Have the courage to speak up with the backing of Scripture when bad decisions are being made.
– Communicate openly and honestly, but in kindness and love with empathy.
– Go to therapy, take the medication, get the help available for mental illness and stop using it as an excuse to behave badly.
-Make healthy, biblical boundaries (click to learn more) and faithfully keep them.
–Find your identity and your peace in Christ (click for a Bible study on Identity) so that no one can ever again steal your joy.
4. Trust God with your villains.
Just because you’ve decided not to be a victim anymore doesn’t mean it’s your job to defeat the bad guys. That’s God’s job. Just follow Him and let Him handle your enemies.
Ultimately, people aren’t our enemies. But the sin that keeps them enslaved, and the demons that manipulate the truth in any way they can are. Simply put, we don’t have the power to do anything about them. But our loving Father does.
It’s not our job to avenge, or to punish sin. Our job is simply to live in obedience to God, the Righteous Judge, and let Him do the rest.
5. Spend the rest of your life in pursuit of God.
Own it. Don’t wait for life to be perfect, dig into the Bible and learn everything you possibly can about what pleases God and then DO it!
Surrender your life wholly to Him. Every. Single. Day. May He give us victory over our sin so we can boldly stand before Him and pray this prayer for healing.
Psalm 17 – A Prayer for Healing
O Lord, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips.
Declare me innocent, for You see those who do right.
You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say.
I have followed Your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
My steps have stayed on Your path; I have not wavered from following You.
I am praying to YOU because I KNOW YOU WILL ANSWER, O GOD.
Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me Your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
By Your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.
Guard me as You would guard Your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.
Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me.
They are without pity. Listen to their boasting!
They track me down and surround me, watching for the chance to throw me to the ground.
They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart – like young lions hiding in ambush.
Arise, O Lord! Stand against them, and bring them to their knees!
Rescue me from the wicked with Your sword!
By the power of Your hand, O Lord, destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of Your treasured ones.
May their children have plenty, leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
Because I am righteous, I will see You.
When I awake, I will see You face to face and be satisfied.