My husband and I own a small retail business. Last winter, we were victimized by shoplifters. They stole several items, worth over $1,000. The same couple stole items from other businesses in the area. The police investigated, compared descriptions of the suspects, traced their movements, and got an arrest warrant. The couple fled, and it took months to find them and bring them into custody. They have been arrested, and we have been to court for a preliminary hearing, with another potential court date in about a month.
The court sent us a long series of papers to fill out, including a victim impact statement, where we were to describe how the suspect’s alleged actions impacted us personally, as well as how our business was damaged. Even though this was not a personal crime (we weren’t physically threatened or harmed, or specifically targeted with an intent to ruin our business), there are still scars–distrust, fear, frustration, and loss, to name a few. Just because a crime isn’t personal, doesn’t mean that no one suffers. It has been an awkward process to write out the victim statement, and to appear in court and recount all that happened that day, but it has also been a good process.
Being a victim is not a pleasant experience. It is frightening, humiliating, maddening, and bewildering. “How could this have happened?” “Why did it happen to me/us?” “What did I/we do wrong?” These are honest questions that go unanswered. But the biggest question may be “Where was God when this happened?” Didn’t he know? Didn’t he care? Why didn’t he act to stop this crime? Why did he allow it to touch us?
In the months since this happened, I’ve learned to ask some other questions of God–
- What other “bad” things have you kept from us without our knowledge? What good things have you showered on us that we took for granted?
- Who else has suffered the same or worse things– how can I reach out with empathy or understanding?
- Where are people suffering without justice? Even though we have had a long wait, we know that the police and court system have been working for us. Where are people living who suffer without hope, in silence, and in fear of seeking help?
- What can we learn from this experience? How can we make our store and our community “safer”? How can we heal, and bring justice instead of wallowing in hurt or seeking revenge?
God has a plan, even in times of trial and questioning. We all will be victims at some point in our life–of injustice, of crime, of disease, of poverty, of losses, of disaster, and of sin’s consequences– our own sins and the sins of others. We can also be victors, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can overcome bitterness and addiction; we can triumph through cancer, depression, or heartbreak; we can rise above setbacks and circumstances; we can choose forgiveness and healing over hatred and self-sabotage. We can move from being perpetual victims to eternal victors, through Jesus Christ our Lord!