“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Many know the verse well. Nearly 20 years after his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph speaks to his brothers and offers a heart of forgiveness and compassion. So how did Joseph come to a point where he was willing to look past the hurt and say, “…BUT GOD intended it for good”? How could he so readily forgive? How could he see the big picture after being hurt?
It is imperative that we look at Joseph’s focus. His focus during his life trials was definitely not inward. He looked past himself, past his hurt and grief, past his brothers’ ill intent, and he believed that God had a better plan. And because of his trust in God —not focusing on himself and what his brothers deserved—he was able to willingly and lovingly forgive. What a different picture Genesis would have been if Joseph had been self-centered and allowed his brothers’ malicious intent to destroy him or crumble him to a bitter mess!
By human standards, Joseph had every right to hold onto his bitterness and anger towards his brothers. But how would God have used that? The outcome would have been far less sweet. Despite his hurt, Joseph submitted to God’s ways and was able to develop a heart of forgiveness.
As I reflect, I wonder—is this my response when people intentionally or even unintentionally hurt me? How would my life change if this were my response to all of life’s challenges. “Yes, this hard situation is happening, BUT GOD.” How is he using that situation in my life, and how can this cause me to surrender to him more? How will I let him receive glory through this difficulty?
And then a greater example, still, can be found at the cross of Christ. As the people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at him, Jesus selflessly asked God to forgive them. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus looked at the people intentionally hurting him, both physically and emotionally, while they were in the process of hurting him, and offered forgiveness—willingly, lovingly, and wholly. What if Jesus hadn’t been focused on doing the will of the Father? I guarantee you his response would have been more along the lines of “Father, provide justice. Give them what they deserve.”
In the kid’s class I was teaching at church recently, I had some friends bring in their caged birds. As an illustration, I opened up the hatch and told the birds they could fly free. The birds, of course, stayed inside their cages. Isn’t that like us? Jesus has set us free! He’s given us freedom to forgive because of His example and His death on the cross. He taught us how to be Father-focused and not self-focused. He opens the door to us to experience freedom, to be forgiven, and then to radically forgive.
Yet, we stay in our cages, bound by sin and unforgiveness. And we miss out on the abundant joy He freely provides!
Forgiveness leads to a life of joy! I pray that as I feebly attempt to model the life of Christ, others may see the joy in my journey. And when I am hurt, be it intentionally or accidentally, that I will be able to focus not on myself, but on WHO can bring good from it.
And as a result of my overflow of love and forgiveness, I pray that I may also say, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
**I wrote this blog post for my church’s website, and it can be found here.