Monday, February 4, 2019
Genesis 50:15, 19-21 15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” … 19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
One of the big stories in the news for the past month has been the safe return of a teenage girl who had been kidnapped. Her parents were killed by the alleged abductor, and she was held captive by him for three months.
It reminds me of another story from twelve years ago of a missing teen who had been found after being gone for four years. He had been abducted from his community by a man who lived within an hour of the boy’s home. This man lived without suspicion with this boy as his own for the entire time.
In both of these cases, and many more like them, the issue of guilt and punishment is important. But for healing to take place in the hearts and minds of those families and victims, the real issue that must be addressed is this – how do we forgive the one who committed the crime?
It is important for us to forgive people who have wronged us. But how do we forgive when the crime against us has been so brutal? We must not be deceived into thinking that we will feel better if we stay angry. No matter how severe the sin that was committed, the long-term effects of unforgiveness are worse. Bitterness and resentment are the thorns that will grow in the soil of an unforgiving heart, and they quickly choke out any harvest of the fruit of the Spirit that you could experience.
Joseph had to make such a choice. Put yourself into his story for a moment. Imagine that several family members had conspired to kill you because of jealousy. Instead of killing you, they decided to ship you off to a foreign land as a slave. They then informed your parents that you were dead.
It’s time for your first choice: rebel against your new master and attempt to rectify the situation or surrender to your plight and do your best to succeed for your master. Joseph chose the latter because he trusted God with the outcome of his life. Could you?
Joseph kept choosing to trust God with the outcome of his life, even though the difficulties continued. He was thrown in prison after being falsely accused of adultery. He was lied to by two prison friends who promised to help him get released but they didn’t. Then, when he was finally in a position of leadership and had the power and authority to bring justice to those who had hurt him, he forgave them and gave them the best that he had. He could have had them all killed or assigned them as slaves, but instead he chose to trust God. In one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”
What would your choice have been? I suspect that for many of us we would have docked the ship of resentment in the harbor of our heart waiting for the day we could sail it on the sea of revenge. Maybe you have one or more ships like that already tied up.
I heard an interesting statement the other day on a radio program that involved finances. It was this – “Don’t sit and wait for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent any out.” That principle applies here. Don’t wait for the ship of God’s blessing to come into your heart until you have sent out the ships of bitterness and resentment. God’s blessings do not sail on the waters of unforgiveness. Where there is resentment there will be no hope. Where there is bitterness there will be no joy. Where there is unforgiveness there will be no peace.
Think carefully and prayerfully right now. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to call today and reassure them and speak kindly to them as Joseph did to his brothers? No matter what they did to you, the pain you are enduring because you have not forgiven them is greater than the pain of the sin that was committed. Untie those ships and send them out to the sea of forgiveness where they will be sunk by the grace of God and buried forever. That will open the port of your heart for God to pour out a blessing on you – the blessing of restored relationships.