This is the first day of a new year and I don’t want to spend the next 365 days with the ancient past dragging behind me. As a result of this pondering I have been giving a lot of thought to the act of forgiving another for something that was hard to endure. I thought about Joseph and how he was able to forgive his brothers who sold him into slavery and told their Father that he had died. You can read about this in Genesis, but what I really am impressed with is what he said to his brothers after their Father’s death. Joseph had taken care of all his brothers and their families for something like seventeen years before their Dad died. He had about twenty years from the time his brothers betrayed him until he saw them again. I don’t believe that this length of time is anything but God’s design. It takes time to forgive someone completely and life must go forward far enough that you begin to see the good in your own life once more. For Joseph he had to endure several betrayals and overcome them before God elevated him to the second in command of Egypt. Time helps to put things that happen to a person into perspective. See what Joseph says to his brothers after their Dad died.
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. Genesis: 50:19-21, (New International Version or NIV).
Joseph had to have been a very forgiving man. Considering all that happened to him it is a wonder that he didn’t become a bitter man. I believe that Joseph had faced such tough problems in his youth that it broke his pride early on and he realized that a life well lived was better than bitterness. He rose above his circumstances every time and God showed him favor. Most people who I think of as great examples seem to rise above their circumstances. How do they do this? Let’s see what the Apostle Paul’s advice was to Timothy.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12, (NIV).
Every great person I know whether a Bible character or in life that has risen above their circumstances have not gotten there on their own power. They have been a strong Christian, one that accepts their situation as something God is in control of and also is the designer of the test. Time is necessary in the process of forgiving something that is so painful to endure. Just as time is important in making something beautiful from an ugly seed placed into the ground, and then it grows into a beautiful bloom. I’m reminded of Peter’s words about God and time.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3: 8-9, (NIV).
God is not slow in keeping the promise that judgement will come, that’s what this verse is talking about. When we are in the process of forgiving we need God to be slow. We also need to realize that God is the judge and we are not. We don’t need to seek revenge because that is God’s job and what we consider a lack of justice may all be a part of God’s plan for us. To rise above our circumstance we give our pain to the Lord, forgive the person who hurt us, and live the rest of our life in peace. We also place that person into God’s hands and out of our own hands. Joseph is such a great example because there were many years between his shock, trauma and pain of being betrayed by his brothers and reconciling with them twenty years later. His life played out in such a way that he was capable of forgiving them completely and capable of blessing them and their families greatly.
Believe it or not, there are people in our world today that are just as great of examples in forgiving others of horrible treatment. Perhaps you are one of these people. Please share your story in the comment section. We need to hear how you overcame evil with good and was able to rise above your circumstances. We need the encouragement to see how God worked together for good in your life. I look forward to reading your testimony.
Today is the beginning to a new year and so why not take a moment to forgive the hurts from the past year or even the past several years. Let’s make it a priority to live every day in 2016 as forgiven people because we forgave others. Remember that God can help you forgive the unforgivable so don’t be afraid to talk to Him about your situation.
My prayer is that 2016 will be the best year you have ever had and that you continue to live your life worthy of your calling as you remember the joy of your salvation in Christ Jesus! Happy New Year everyone!
Until next time…Katherine