It hurt. If I’m honest, it still hurts. I was taken advantage of. I was treated badly. I was embarrassed by my naivete, and I was angry at the one who had taken advantage of me. It was especially hard because I thought they loved me, and it was painful to finally realize they didn’t love me at all. I wanted revenge!
But then I remembered the saying by Confucius – “Before you embark on a journey of revenge; dig two graves.” Indeed, the drive for revenge is a dead end, especially since we so conveniently forget that we have wronged others and created in their hearts a desire for revenge as well! If everyone gets “justice” then everyone is ultimately in trouble!
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 43:26-31; 45:1-16:
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him; and he cried, “Make every one go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, I pray you.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Make haste and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry; you shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have; and there I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come; lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Make haste and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him. When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well.
The story of Joseph and his brothers and how they sold him into slavery because they were jealous of his relationship with their father is one of the most powerful family dramas of the First Testament. And a story that reveals the grace of God, especially to those who have been wronged. In the end, God restores Joseph and his brothers and even saves the lives of the traitorous brothers from a deep and deadly famine in the land all because Joseph refused the temptation to settle for revenge. Joseph chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and all of the people were blessed because of this choice of faith over temporary satisfaction.
At every moment of our lives, we stand at the crossroads of choice. Will we allow wisdom to inform our choices or will allow fear and anger to pollute our lives and the lives around us with that darkness?
But the only path that leads to allowing us the freedom to choose wisdom over mere reaction is the regular discipline of a practiced life of faith. That means the key to being ready to be free from the temporary temptations of moments of pain and disappointment is exercising your faith on a daily basis so that you’ll be ready for those moments that come to all our lives. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers BECAUSE he had already practiced trusting in God BEFORE they betrayed him.
Today, settle that times of pain and even betrayal will be a part of your life. It happens to the best of us. And prepare for those painful moments by learning and living the truth that God loves you and knows where you are! By being Orthodox on Purpose you prepare your life to weather ANY storm!
P.S. Dear Lord, please heal the wounds of betrayal that have happened in my life. And please forgive me for the wounds of betrayal I have inflicted on others. Life is filled with these conflicts and times of pain. But I also know that You have experienced betrayal and You asked Your Father to forgive those who betrayed You. Help me grow beyond the reach of my own fears and ego to enslave me to bitterness and anger. You are so loving and kind, and Your Life is filled with healing and peace. Amen