After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.
When 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?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructionsbefore he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
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.
The single greatest short-circuit to healing when we get hurt is the refusal to learn how to forgive those who have done us harm. Holding a grudge robs us of joy. Being bitter against someone—no matter what the offense—has been described as drinking poison and hoping the other guy gets sick.
In fact, forgiving is one of the most self-interested things we can do.
Whenever we get hurt we should review stories of mercy in the Bible. One of the best is about the patriarch Joseph and his complicated relationship with his brothers. They hurt him deeply, and Joseph could have very easily become a bitter person. It happens every day. Hurting people then turn around and hurt other people. It’s a vicious cycle.
I like the saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Joseph was the poster-child for this maxim. His life was one long nightmare. It’s all recorded in the last dozen or so chapters of the Book of Genesis. The guy couldn’t catch a break. Every once in a while, he received a glimmer of hope, only to have the rug pulled out from under him again and again.
But Joseph chose to be a BETTER man, not a BITTER man.
It’s a choice available to all of us. If we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we can forgive. The pattern is there. The power is there. But we must choose to forgive. Then we must choose again. And again.
Do I have any grudges?
Have I ever been guilty of things I refuse to forgive others for?
Have I grown to the place where I can wish blesses for those who have cursed me?