All of us have a past. ALL of us! For some of us, our past was filled primarily with happy days, pleasant memories, and the joys of childhood. We were the apples of our parents’ eyes, spending long summers away on vacation and having plenty of friends and possessions to enjoy. We wanted for nothing and lived an abundant and blessed life. Life was good.
For other sisters, however, life was not so pleasant. Many of us experienced the pain of our parents’ divorce, the absence of a mother and/or father, molestation by a close family member or friend, embarrassment due to our parents’ lack of resources, drug and alcohol abuse, and the list goes on. We were beaten, abused, rejected, ridiculed, bullied, mistreated, misunderstood, and unwanted. Whether it was at school, in the neighborhood, or at home, we felt lonely, angry, sad, withdrawn, depressed, or even suicidal. Unable to manage these feelings in a positive, constructive way, some of us lashed out at our family, our teachers, and friends. We ran away from home. We drew inward and suppressed our anger, instead choosing to manage our emotions with drugs, alcohol, or sex.
Some of us experienced the majority of our pain well into our adult years as a result of a painful divorce, the loss of a child, parent, or spouse, or a serious, life-threatening medical condition. We have lost homes, jobs, and businesses, and with it our self-esteem and joy. We feel the sting of loss every day, and though we muddle through the day, we have lost our zest for life and no longer look forward to the future. Every day is a struggle to survive and stay afloat.
The problem with living with a painful past is that we as women usually carry our pain into our adult lives, affecting ourselves and those that we love. The feelings and emotions that controlled us as children or those issues that have manifested as an adult often dictate who (or why) we marry, how we treat our children, how we behave at the workplace, and how we treat ourselves. It bleeds into every facet of our lives and guides our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We think that we are effectively masking these issues before others, when in reality our husbands, colleagues, etc. are around the water cooler, on the golf course, or at the spa talking about our issues and their destructive nature.
How did we get here? How do we turn off the tape recorder that repeats “You’re a victim, act like one?” Who or what can help us to heal from the hurts of our past and present in order to move into a victorious, hopeful future?
To answer these questions, we can turn to the book of Job in the Bible. Job, a man described in Job 1:1 as “blameless” and “upright,” feared God and shunned evil. He was married and had seven sons and three daughters. He had plenty of cattle and a large number of servants. Job was “the greatest man among all the peoples of the East.” (Job 1:3 NIV) Needless to say, Job was “the man.”
One day, God and Satan had a conversation about Job. God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Satan responded “Haven’t you put a hedge around him and his household and everything He has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face.”
In somewhat of a surprising turn, God allowed Satan to take everything that Job had, with the caveat that he could not lay a finger on Job. Satan proceeded to put a wrecking ball through Job’s life, first taking all of his livestock, then killing all of his sons and daughters. Later, God lets Satan take a second stab at Job, this time afflicting his body with a painful disease. I know what you’re thinking, “Job surely cursed God after all of that!”
Astonishingly, Job did an about face to Satan and chose to trust God, even though almost everything he possessed (including his health) was lost. How could Job trust God after all of that? How did he withstand that kind of attack, seemingly for no reason at all?
We can learn several things from Job on rejecting the victim label:
1. Don’t ask why–sometimes there is no answer to the why question. Trusting God is oftentimes the only answer to the “Why” question. (See Deut. 29:29)
2. Don’t automatically assume that you are being punished for doing something wrong. The trials you faced as a child and even those that you confront as an adult are not always meant to punish you for bad behavior, but to develop you into the person that God designed for you to be. (See Jer. 29:11)
3. God allows things to happen in our lives to develop our character and build our faith, not to destroy us. He is not in the “punishing” or “tempting” business. (See John 10:10; James 1:12-15)
4. God loves us. God did not allow Satan to have his way with Job because he didn’t love Job or did not recognize the good works that Job did, but because God knew that Job would come out of the experience better, richer, and with more faith than he previously possessed. (See Job 42:10-17)
5. We have a choice–to curse God because of our trials or to be refined by them and move forward. There is a measure of grace available to each of us to meet every challenge that we encounter, if we choose to trust in God’s perfect plan for our lives. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
6. Blaming God or refusing to forgive those that victimized us does nothing but keep us in chains and prevent us from obtaining forgiveness for our own sins (See Job 2: 9-10; Matt. 6:14-15).
7. Refuse to listen to those around you that condemn you or constantly remind you of your past or your present limitations. Surround yourself instead with individuals that encourage you to trust God and move forward in your life, no matter what things look like. (See Job 42:7-9)
I could keep going with this list, but the point is that you, like Job, can emerge from life’s challenges victorious and with a different perspective on life. If you desire to reject the “victim” label, then repeat this prayer with me:
Dear Jesus, I desire to live a victorious life in you and to walk away from my victim mentality. I understand now that everything that happens in my life, good and bad, is designed to build me up and make me a stronger person, even the things that really hurt me. Help me to move forward in my life and forgive those that hurt me, took me for granted, or victimized me. Let me release the anger, resentment, and pain that accompanies my past and present experiences and fill my heart and my life with your love and light. Come into my heart and heal the broken places, so that I can live from this day forward as the victorious woman that you created me to be. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
Beautiful sisters, let today be the day that you declare “This is it. I am going to stop being angry at _______ for _________. I am going to stop blaming my for what happened to me as a child. I am going to choose to forgive _____________ for hurting or victimizing me.”
Forgiveness and healing, like salvation, begins with a CHOICE. A choice to move from where we are to a brighter, healthier, happier future. No matter how bad your past has been, or how tumultuous your present circumstances, GOD loves you and desires to use those experiences for your good. Refuse to wallow, stay in bed, and pull down the curtains. Refuse to withdraw from loved ones and co-workers that desire to love and help you. Refuse to play the “blame game,” even if there is someone or something responsible for your pain. Today, once and for all, refuse to be a prisoner of your past and embrace the promise of a better, brighter future.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) says it this way:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Sisters, we don’t have time to waste living in our past or being swallowed up by our present issues. God is bigger than our past and certainly capable of handling our present circumstances when we give them over to Him. Let us begin the process of healing to move into the bright future that God has for us:
“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)
Yours in the Journey,