Do you know people who complain about their circumstances but don’t do anything to change them?
We can all fall into the tendency to ‘play the victim’ – to stay ‘safe’ by taking sympathy from others, yet not owning the choices we have as grown adults. And it’s always hard knowing what’s in our power to change, and what isn’t.
But when we remain stubbornly unwilling to seek help or support in making things better, it can be frustrating for those who love us.
“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound,” wrote James Allen, of those who remain stagnant.
But of the man or woman who knows there is no way out but forward, Anais Nin said:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
John 5: 1-8 tells the story of a suffering man whose attitude and life situation was challenged by Jesus:
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
This man had suffered for 38 years, and was presumably at the pool in the hope of a healing. The name of the pool ‘Bethesda’ translates to ‘House of Mercy’, and some writings say that at certain times an angel would come down and stir up the water. Then the first person to get into the pool after the water was stirred would be healed of whatever disease or infirmity they had.
Jesus, discovering the man had been sick for so long, asks if he wants to get well. Does he want to receive the healing the Son of God can offer? Is he really hungry for a new life? It seems the man is frustrated by other people going ahead of him when he tries to enter the stirred water. He is weak, and fed up. You could argue he’s making excuses.
But things are about to change. Jesus has come to bring healing. “Get up!” he says to the man. “Pick up your mat and walk.” And he does! For the first time in 38 years…
We might not see many instantaneous healings, but there are solutions to our problems if we look for them. Starting with Jesus. “Do you want to get well?” he asks us. “Get up!” he says.
Jesus promises to walk alongside us, whether we’re healed immediately from disease or not. He promises to offer guidance and wisdom in the midst of our emotional and physical struggles. As we search and pray, he brings people to our life that can point us in the right direction. But we have to be willing to work at things – to refresh our approach sometimes.
Change can be uncomfortable – terrifying even. But playing the victim gets tiring after a while. And sometimes we have no choice but to move forward. To risk blossoming.