But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many
lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”
And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Go Deep: The willingness to forgive is the most obvious of Joseph’s virtues, but given what his brothers had done, it is the hardest to relate to on a personal and practical level. How do you forgive those who were supposed to cherish, encourage and protect you, when instead, they betrayed you in the worst possible way?
The key to Joseph’s forgiveness was an uncommon understanding and a radical commitment to the sovereignty of God—that God was in control of his life. He believed it was God who had allowed his brothers to sell him into slavery some two decades ago as a part of God’s plan to save their lives.
He understood that it was God who had allowed the injustice of Potiphar’s wife as God’s way of arranging a meeting with the cupbearer in prison. He realized why God allowed the cupbearer to then forget about him, leaving him to rot in prison another two years: God’s timing wasn’t right.
Joseph chose to interpret all the events of his life—even these incredibly hurtful events—as God’s perfect will for his life. He knew that if God allowed injustice or injury or inaction, it was for a greater purpose. Therefore, letting go of bitterness and offering forgiveness was the only wise thing to do.
That’s tough when we’ve been wounded. The last thing we want to do is forgive. But the only healing salve for the deep emotional wounds that get inflicted from time to time in our lives is forgiveness!
Now some people think forgiving is forgetting. It’s not! It’s precisely because of we can’t forget that forgiveness is needed. Some people think forgiveness minimizes the hurt. It doesn’t! It’s precisely because of the intensity of our pain that forgiveness is needed. Some think that forgiveness means forfeiting justice. Not true! It’s precisely, and perhaps most importantly, that because we ourselves deserve God’s judgment, we need to extend forgiveness.
That’s why Paul taught, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) That’s why Jesus said, “You can’t get forgiveness from God without also forgiving others.” (Matthew 6:15, MSG) Gorge Herbert said, “He who cannot forgive another breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.”
You see, without forgiveness, there is no future of divine blessing in our lives. Without forgiveness, there is only an endless recycling of resentment, retaliation and alienation. Without forgiveness, our deepest wounds will never heal. Harry Emerson Fosdick was right when he wrote that not forgiving someone is like “burning down your house to get rid of a rat.”
Maybe you have someone in your life that has hurt you deeply, and you have sworn to never forgive. Joseph would advise you to rethink that position. He would encourage you that with God’s help, you can take a step toward forgiveness, and with that step, take a giant leap toward a destiny of divine blessing!
Just Saying… C.S. Lewis said of forgiveness, “Only the truly forgiven are truly forgiving.” And I would add to that, “Only the truly forgiving are truly forgiven.”