To counter the stories of heartbreaking victimization pouring out of Nigeria, one Nigerian woman has chosen to tell the story of her people’s courage and resilience by photographing moments of strength, laughter, and joy. Instead of diminishing the plight of Nigerians, these photographs have encouraged them to rise above hopelessness, to uphold their dignity, and to help one another with greater resolve (see “A counternarrative for Boko Haram’s victims,” CSMonitor.com).
As I pray about how we can break through all kinds of victimization, I am so inspired by this story. No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we can turn away from hopelessness to something greater and more powerful.
I’ve come to see that this greater power is God, divine Love, and it is the basis for our hope and courage. It is not unattainable or far off. The all-encompassing love of our Father-Mother God is right here and now. Christ Jesus best expressed this love, and not just for those in his time, but for all ages. Through the power of Christ, which Christian Science Discoverer Mary Baker Eddy explains as “the spiritual idea of divine Love,” we experience healing (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 38). Like the sun shining through the clouds, the Christ illuminates even the darkest of circumstances.
The Bible is full of accounts of how this Christ light frees us from victimization. One of my favorite stories is when Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison. They had been victims of religious persecution, and there seemed no way of escape for them. And yet they turned away from hopelessness and began to pray and to sing praises to God. Suddenly, there was an earthquake, and all the prisoners’ bonds dropped off and the prison doors were opened. What is most touching to me about this story is that even though they were physically freed to escape, they waited for the guard to recognize their freedom and lead them from the prison (see Acts 16:16-40).
Today, prayer continues to help us recognize our freedom and the freedom of others from adversity, both large and small. Some years ago, praying released me from an oppressive financial partnership I found myself in. Resenting the inequity of the relationship, I was constantly on my partner's case, wanting relief. I was concerned though that my cajoling was beating the individual down and perpetuating a cycle of victimization. So I earnestly prayed with this passage by Mrs. Eddy: “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts” (Science and Health, p. 261).
I strove to see that God, Spirit, had made both me and the other individual spiritually. This meant that we each included and could express the qualities of Spirit. The Bible explains, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsufferring, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23). In other words, there was nothing that could stop these qualities of God from being expressed in us.
Instead of dwelling on resentment, fear, blame, and guilt, I prayed for the grace to stop reliving the past and instead to see the goodness of God that was right there – and there was much! Discerning the “fruit of the Spirit” helped me to speak kindly and patiently to my partner, and eventually an amicable and equitable dissolving of the partnership came about. While I was relieved, I continued to pray to gain complete freedom from feeling that all the years in the partnership had taken a toll on me. This meant refusing to see myself or the other individual as either a victim or a victimizer. Just recently when a family member brought up my experience, I realized that I felt no resentment, blame, or guilt. I felt completely free from any sense of victimization.
As we actively witness the expression of God in ourselves and others, we find there is nothing that can truly oppress us. Each of us has the right and ability to pray in a way that holds up the qualities of God – that insists on inscribing in our hearts only what is “enduring, good, and true.” It is not ignoring our own or the world’s problems to pray in this way. In fact, it is caring enough to do more than empathetically suffer with victimization. It is to engage in the compassionate and healing solution to it.