How Jesus Addressed the Victim Mentality

In chapter 5 of the book of John, Jesus found a man by a pool, where he and many others lay sick and diseased in various ways. The location was Bethesda, a supernatural site where an angel would come down and stir up the waters. When this angel would swoop down and touch the waters, the first person to jump in was healed of whatever disease they had. Talk about an amazing opportunity for instant healing! Jesus walked up to a man who had been afflicted with an infirmity for thirty eight years.

John writes, “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?“’ (John 5:6 NKJV – emphasis added).

The first thing we can see here is that Jesus knew that this man did not get sick a week ago. This disease had gripped this man for most of his life. One thing Jesus could know is that someone who has a disease for a long time can end up wrapping their identity around their disease. What comes against us can end up becoming a part of our identity if we are not discerning.

The question Jesus asks confronts the victim mindset right from the start. When you read this account, it seems as though Jesus is being a little uncaring, at least by our modern day standards. He doesn’t ask for the man’s story. No intake done at all regarding what factors got him to this place. His question hits to the core of the man’s heart and motivation. “Do you want to be made well?” He cuts right to the heart of the matter, “Do you really want to be healed?

The Important Question

To the average reader, this seems like the dumbest question in the world! Who would want to stay sick? As a reader, I am answering the question for the man before he can even speak, “Yes! Yes! Just say yes!” We don’t see that, but instead hear victimization telling Jesus a story. “The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me’” (John 5:7).

Jesus didn’t ask that. He just needed a yes or no answer. Victimization doesn’t answer that, because it would draw a line in the sand of what would be required from this day forward. If he says yes, then he is personally responsible from now on. If he says no, he looks like a fool to everyone. So instead, he gives a list of reasons why he hasn’t been able to get into the pool.

Do We Really Want Healing?

Let’s be honest, if he really wanted to be healed, he could pay someone or even bribe someone. “Hey buddy, next time the angel comes, I’ll owe you a thousand dollars if you run and shove me into those waters. Give it all you got and I’ll pay you back when I get back on my feet. I’ll get a job and earn plenty of money to make it worth your while. Anything….anything to just get in that water. If I don’t make it this month, then help me next time. Whatever it takes. Get me in that water!” Instead, he was so bound that his answer was . . . the story.

All of us, if not careful, can carry a story within us that is not the story God has given. The story we carry can be littered with chapters of unhealed pain, distorted perspectives and limited thinking. We can carry that story into many different situations, projecting it onto future encounters. The man had a chance to address his story and replace it with the story that Christ was bringing to him—a story of healing and wholeness. It is the same story God is bringing to us today, but we have to ask ourselves the same question. Do I really want to be healed?

I have sat down with many people who were looking for healing of a debilitating disease in their life. They came to me to see if we could get to the root of what may be making and keeping them sick. I have often had the uncomfortable conversation, asking them, “Do you really want to be healed?”

They look back at me like I am crazy. “Of course Mark. Of course we want to be healed! That’s ridiculous!”

Then I say, “Well, are you willing to give up your disability check if you get healed and no longer have this disease?” A moment of silence falls as they ponder how their disease has actually developed into a whole world of needed provisions that may be challenging to let go of.

I am not trying to knock getting financial or medical help. That is not the point here. I am getting to the root of whether or not they really want to be healed, because with healing comes a new lifestyle and an entirely new way of living. A lot of times people want the healing, but don’t want to embrace what a healed life looks like. That is what a victim promotes: rescuing with very little personal participation.

Walking into Wholeness

Jesus heals the man, but the Bible doesn’t say that He just healed him, but makes him whole. God is actually interested in all around wholeness. For most, we think the story is over and we move on to the next event. But Jesus actually runs into him at the temple and gives him a very interesting instruction. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14. Jesus was making sure he understood that he was healed despite his sin issues, but that if he didn’t watch out the sin issue could rise up again, and he would be sicker than before.

Yikes. That’s a tough thing for most Christians to hear, because we hate the idea of disease being the result of sin issues. We avoid that subject at all costs, especially because of people who have taught on the subject with heavy condemnation and guilt. But we can’t negate that Jesus warned the man firmly, guard this wellness you have been given. Watch how you are thinking so that you don’t fall into the old patterns that made you and kept you sick.

I propose to you that one of the sin issues this man carried was that he saw all of life as a victim, which gave no room for love, hope and faith to operate fully in his life. When we live as victims, we carry unbelief, which denies the possibility of our situation being changed. We lose hope and believe the lie that we have no more options. Just like the man who was healed, we need to understand that we need to live as a victor, not as a victim. Oftentimes, part of our healing process involves renouncing the sin of a victim mindset.

Question: How easy can it be for a victim mentality to creep in? How do you help someone who has self-pity working in their life?

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