I wonder if the Apostle John when he was imprisioned on the island of Patmos, ever considered himself a survivor, battled compassion fatigue or dealt with survivors guilt?
Noah Webster describes “surviver” as one who outlives the other and “survivor” in the real estate terms as a joint tenant; and “In law, the longer liver of two joint tenants, or of any two persons who have a joint interest in anything.”
In her paper Guilt Following Traumatic Events, Kathleen Nader says regarding understanding guilt, “Following traumatic events, an individual may experience “real” guilt for acts of commission or omission that resulted in the physical or emotional endangerment or harm of others. “Imagined” guilt (e.g., survivor guilt, guilt with an element of wishful thinking about one’s ability to act) includes the types of guilt that occur in the absence of having acted harmfully. Both types of guilt include self condemnation, and either can result in harm to self or others (e.g., punishing acts to self or others; the action or elicitation of rejection, disdain and/or punishment).
The Apostle John along with many others was a survivor. He outlived all the other apostles and was not put to death by being martyrd.
John was the only one of the original disciples not to die a violent death. Instead, he passed away peacefully in Patmos in his old age, sometime around 100 AD.
From what I can glean from his writings he did not suffer any sense of survivors guilt. Perhaps, he was so secure in his purpose and calling along with his relationship with Holy Spirit, that he truly understood this reality; Jesus and eternity were just moments away; just waiting on him to complete his assignment here on earth!
John wrote in Revelation 12:10-12 (The Study Bible):
The War in Heaven
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God. They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they did not love their lives so as to shy away from death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea; with great fury the devil has come down to you, knowing he has only a short time.”…
When someone suffers Survivor’s Guilt, there is always one culprit on the scene. The kingdom of darkness and the accuser of the brethren. Satan and his dominion will use even the noblest of causes to attack the minds of those who are spared in the most vilest of attacks. God is not the author of evil, war, murder, suicide or even the loss of a beloved spouse who dies before you. If you are suffering from guilt that is not the direct result of a sin you have not confessed and given over to the Lord, then you are taking on something that is a false burden. Jesus can and will set you free from this type of pain.
I suppose John used the crisis’, traumas that he witnessed as a lifeline to pull him closer into the bosom of Jesus. John wrote about Jesus’ love, the perfect love that casts out all fear, guilt and shame.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
I John 4:18 NLT
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:5-10 ASV
John stood firm in his relationship with Jesus. He remained empathetic and spiritually in tune to his fellow apostles and fellow believers.
When we study the Apostle John, nicknamed “the one whom Jesus loved”, we see multiple qualities and personalty traits of those who have the gift of mercy, empathy and are called to pastoral and crisis and trauma care. They are often the ones left behind to “tell the story” and bare the burden of helping others who are left behind.
Secure, Compassionate, Caretaker, Rescuer, Abolitionist, Faithful, Discerning, Prophetic, Confident, Spiritual, Good Listener, Declares Truth, Obedient, Humble
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God [a]gave him to show unto his [b]servants, (which are those who believe) even the things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified [c]it by his angel unto his servant John; 2 who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Revelation 1:1-3 (italics mine)
Even while exiled on the island of Patmos, John continued to express the beautiful love story of Jesus. At the crucifixion John was charged by Jesus to care for his mother Mary and later he records many interactions about Jesus who was constantly ministering to those who were in crisis and trauma. John relates how Jesus used the losses, physical sufferings and grief of others to help them redirect their focus from the hard times to the love and mercy that only God can provide during traumatic times.
John continued to love and support his fellow disciples, standing firm in his faith, but always humble and retreating to a position of prayer and intimacy with Jesus. John, the one whom Jesus loved was a writer, truth-teller and a witness to the glory of Jesus Christ and awaiting the things to come in the future, that were given to him to write for our ears to hear and our Spirits to bare witness to Jesus, encouraging us to wait with joy and expectancy, the Holy One who will come again.
John outlived all of the other disciples, witnessing the horrific acts of violence toward those whom he loved, in the name of Jesus.
Rather than be filled with anger, doubt and guilt as he watched and heard of his brothers and sisters who were martyred for the sake of Jesus; he pens the following words given to Him as a promise for us all, that we don’t have to wait for Jesus to return to save us.
We can experience His love, His healing and His presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit right here and right now.
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17
from ashes to beauty