“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant
it for good.” – Genesis 50:20 ESV
Most of us, at some point, have been hurt... we’ve been lied to, betrayed, let down, humiliated - maybe even hated by someone we’ve known or loved. Sometimes the hurt is unintentional, but not always. Many times others hurt us on purpose. Maybe because of jealousy, envy, or spite... maybe because they’re hurt, so they lash-out and hurt others! We’ve all been hurt.
Yet, here we are... we survived. We made it though, and we stand today with hard-learned lessons... and much more guarded hearts, as we found a way to carry on despite the pain that we experienced.
But what would happen, I wonder, if that person - the one who has caused the most hurt & pain in our life... showed up on your doorstep today?
Maybe years; even decades later... you find yourself suddenly face-to-face with the one who dealt misery into your life.
How do you think you’d respond? What would you do?
Would you come undone with feelings of bitterness and anger? Would you stand locked in fear as you re-lived those hurtful events? Would strike out in anger - verbally or even physically?
Or... could you stand on the threshold of that encounter and respond like Joseph?
Now listen: we’ve all been there. Right? And our first impulse, when we encounter someone who’s hurt us, isn’t always very pleasant. I mean, we’re only human - and when someone hurts us, even if we’re learned to “live with it” - when we’re confronted with old offences, we’re prone to respond in bitterness - even if that bitterness is just internal, and no one knows it but us...
But Joseph didn’t do that. Joseph confronted bitterness, hurt and past offence, with forgiveness... saying to those who hurt him the most:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
“...but God meant it for good.”
When you and I allow the Holy Spirit to heal our brokeness, it tends to create a wider birth for the brokeness of others. And as Christ begins to heal us from those hurtful experiences, we tend to become more reflective (more giving) of the love, and mercy, and forgiveness of Christ that we ourselves have received.
And what I find is, as I learn to truly forgive... what matters most... is the space between the point of offence, and the point of forgiveness.
What matters is who and Whose I am... not who the offending party is, or even what they did.
What matters is how willing I am, to have God work ALL THINGS for good within me?
That’s Joseph’s story...
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, they wanted to kill him... instead, they sold into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, where he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and spent two years in prison for it. He had every reason to spend his days seething in anger towards those who’d hurt him most.
But Joseph (in faith) refused to allow his brother’s hostility consume him. Rather, he turned to the Lord... and God worked all those things to the good... (Romans 8:28). And when the day came for Joseph to see his brothers again, he responded as one who had been shaped NOT by his circumstances, but by God.
“...you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
How many times in our own lives can we actually look back, knowing what we know now, and see that even the things most unwelcomed - things we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy - somehow, someway worked for our benefit, for our good. They certainly helped bring us to where we are right now.
In the despair of a great famine, when Joseph’s brothers were in need of Joseph’s kindness, Joseph had the ability, the grace, the providential placement... to reassure his brothers that they, and their families, would be taken care of. He was able to comfort them, and speak kindly towards them (Genesis 50:21).
Because God took what was intended for evil (for harm, for pain), and flipped it upside down, bringing good of it. Which is what God does! It’s God’s nature to work evil into good!
But there’s something important that we need to notice here: Joseph was willing to have God make it good.
So the hard question is, what have you let God work in you?
When I think back to the times (and situations) in which I’ve been hurt the most... can I see? Can I appreciate what God has done – and continues to do - to bring me to the place of forgiveness and peace? Can I understand God is working ALL things for my good?
Can look at the one who hurt me - and as best I’m able, can I see that person from a different point of view - NOT necessarily because that person has changed - but because Christ has changed me?
Can I express compassion - not because the other person deserves it - but because God shows compassion to me in my own wickedness (time and again), and I can offer forgiveness because Christ has forgiven me?
When we turn to the Lord and hand over the offenses,
misdeeds, and wrongdoings done to us, he blesses us... he gives us with beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3), we will grow in the steadfastness of our faith (James 1:2-3), and we can be sure that no weapon fashioned against us will ever truly succeed (Isaiah 54:17).
I know you’ve been hurt. And I have too. Sometimes the hurtful actions of others are inexcusable and maybe beyond your capability to forgive, but I urge you - as I urge myself - to let God have the final say. Let God work in you his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), so the power of the offence will ease, and you can one day stand before them and say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
How has God turned evil for good in your life?
May you and I continue to experience conformity to God’s Will, as he continues to glorify us through the power of Christ!