I hate wasps.
I mean I really, really hate them.
Like, I would be out there with a blowtorch and just zap them, every last one - if that actually wasn’t a major fire hazard and kind of stupidly dangerous. They just make me SO MAD.
I feel like sometimes we can have a few “wasps” flying around in our thinking, and they make me even more mad.
For whatever it’s worth, to whoever ends up reading this, I want to take a swat at one particular wasp I’ve noticed and say this:
There are no victims in God’s kingdom.
None. Not one.
There are lots of victims out there, in the world, people who don’t know the transforming power of love. But there are no victims inside the love of God.
This doesn’t diminish the experience or effect of pain. I hate suffering and I hate that it’s part of our existence and I hate that sometimes in the church we fail to recognize or legitimize suffering, whether out of fear or just ignorance.
But the truth - if you embrace the Gospel - is that in Jesus, pain is no longer your master.
In Jesus, the experience of pain is transformed from feeling pointless to being productive.
In Jesus, pain produces something good in us. It gets woven into a redemptive plan and it gets used to help other people in a powerful way.
It might be an overused metaphor but childbirth really is a fantastic picture of this. No matter how a baby is born it’s painful, uncomfortable, hard. But it’s productive.
In Jesus, you no longer need to deal with your pain by deflecting the weight of it to someone else and playing the blame game. We all tend to do this in some way, but living under a habit of blaming other people for our problems will actually put us under oppression, because ultimately people can’t be God to us and we’ll never get the release we need from living like they are.
I hate seeing oppression over people.
I hate it more than I hate wasps. Way more.
Like any other addiction, a victim mentality causes us to go round in a self-destructive cycle where there is a build-up of negative pressure moving toward a temporary release of indulging the destructive behaviour (in this case, blaming and getting resentful and bitter).
This mentality creates an unhealthy, destructive pattern in relationships where one person is constantly trying to defuse another person’s time bomb and the other person is constantly moving through this cycle of repressing and releasing and nobody ever makes any progress, ever.
Here’s the thing: I am not equipped to eliminate suffering any more than I’m equipped to destroy every wasp in my neighbourhood. It’s a task beyond what I - or any other human being - can handle. Even with a blowtorch.
I AM NOT GOD.
People can’t be God to each other. Do we get this?
We can love each other and help each other to whatever capacity we have, but none of us can carry someone else’s “why”. We just can’t. It’s a crushing burden far beyond what we’re made to deal with.
Victimizing ourselves limits our influence. If our experiences of suffering can teach us anything, it has to be that we live in a world desperately in need of love and hope. This is a world in which people of hope can’t afford to have their influence limited. We just can’t.
I believe there is a way to legitimize and recognize suffering without becoming oppressed by a victim mentality. And there is a way to minister to it without trying to replace the job of the Holy Spirit, which never works.
Suffering is real. But God is generous.
It might not seem like it, but these two facts do co-exist beautifully.
I don’t have a “why” for my hurts or anyone else’s, besides the simple fact that I believe we’re all in a story that hasn’t wrapped up yet, and it’s a story where pain got invited in by the free will of humankind, not by God. The Bible says the whole universe is groaning as it waits for God to finish redeeming everything (Romans 8 v 22).
Waiting is mysterious. Why God didn’t just pull the plug on this mess a long time ago, I don’t know. I honestly wake up some days and I think - Jesus! Just come back already!
But one thing I do know: waiting pulls our hearts toward eternity. And somehow, he’s in the waiting. Somehow, he’s still enough. The experience of his love is always enough, in a way that defies logical explanation.
But seeing yourself as a victim will prevent you from having that experience. Victims keep their heads down and their hands closed. Sons and daughters look up and they open up and they receive.
That’s why if you tell me your hurt, I will listen and I will cry with you and I’ll do what I can to help, but I will not take on the weight of your why. It’s not mine to carry. Only Jesus can do that.
In this messy, painful time of waiting for Jesus to come back, the only productive way to deal with suffering is to absorb the generosity of God into the void that pain creates. We need to take ownership of our relationship with the Holy Spirit and ask him to meet us where we stand.
What happens then - and I have watched this happen so many, many times besides having experienced it personally - is that anointing is released on our lives to meet other people in their pit.
And it’s there we discover we’re resourced appropriately - by the authority of our experience and how the Holy Spirit met us there - to lift them out.