I’ve mentioned before that my early childhood was not ideal. I suffered through my biological dad leaving, neglect and abuse from a stepfather, and bullying in school. I went through many years of counseling as a result. Thankfully, I’m not afraid or triggered any longer when talking about these events. Once I began my relationship with Christ, we labored together to overcome the depression, anxiety, and PTSD that my past caused. Through that effort, I have found freedom from the pains of my past.
The first step I needed to take was to acknowledge that God is still good, even though He allowed evil to befall the innocent. Because God is good, He’s given freewill to humanity. Without the freedom of choice, there cannot be true love. So because He loves us, He gives us the choice to choose to do good or choose to do evil. This does not mean that God is happy when we are hurt by others’ evil choices. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Jesus is compassionate and hurts when we hurt.
Our King does not desire for us to continue to live in that hurt. But when there is great pain and trauma in our pasts, our hearts can believe God is evil, even when our minds believe He is good. While these false beliefs persist, we cannot live the life God intends. We need to ask the Lord to replace these false beliefs with His truth. This is how we obey Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” A great resource to help with this process is called Transformation Prayer Ministry discovered by Ed Smith and Joshua Smith. And while TPM is a great resource, trust in the Lord is developed overtime as we choose to see and acknowledge His presence in our lives– especially in difficulties.
The account of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50 gives us an example of how to see God through the pains of life. Because his father favored him, he earned his brother’s scorn. When Joseph bragged about prophetic dreams of his family bowing to him, their resentment came to a head. His brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Still, he wouldn’t be dissuaded and worked unto the Lord while serving under Potiphar. Once in a high position, he caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife who attempted to seduce Joseph. He fled, but she grabbed his cloak, accused him of attempted rape, and had him jailed. As always, his character shines through so much that his jailers put him in charge of his fellow prisoners. When he helps fellow inmates interpret their dreams, he’s forgotten for years. God then sends Pharaoh a dream, and Joseph is remembered. He interprets the dream, and is elevated to governor over Egypt. Joseph finally has power and authority to exact his revenge over the cup bearer who forgot him, Potipher’s wife who lied about him, and his brothers who sold him. But instead, when his brothers are brought before him, he extends his hand in forgiveness, proclaiming, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph had many reasons to live in the pain of his circumstances, but he decided to become a victor by fixing his eyes on God.
Note how Joseph’s trust in God, Who turns what was meant for evil into good, led to him being able to forgive his brothers. Like Joseph, we need to forgive those who have wronged us in our pasts. God doesn’t treat this concept lightly either. Mark 11:25 tells us, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Let me differentiate forgiveness from reconciliation. Forgiveness is a personal choice to relinquish your right for revenge. Reconciliation on the other hand is a joint decision to work through hurts to build up trust. There are times when reconciliation cannot or should not be strived for.
Now, forgiveness is not easy. When anger wells up towards those who hurt me, there are three main actions I take. First, I relinquish vengeance to the Lord, leaning on Romans 12:19 to do so. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” In other words, God says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” Second, I pray blessings for that person. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This process is also continual. Resentment comes. I give it to God. He returns it with His peace. Resentment returns. I surrender it to God. He floods me with His peace. Finally, if it continues to bother me, I ask God to put His truth in my heart. The truth from Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposes.”
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
I hadn’t realized that as second in command, Joseph could of gotten his revenge on those in Egypt who had mistreated him. I’m blown away by the thought of Joseph giving food even to Potiphar’s wife, who was the one who’s lies wrongfully accused him of naughtiness, and put him in prison. That’s a God level forgiveness I hadn’t realized.