Keeping Score (Part 2)

Last week I asked the question, “Do we forget when we forgive people who bring offense and emotional pain into our lives?  My summation was that we don’t go brain dead after we forgive someone.  But God graciously pulls the pain out of the situation by giving us a healthier interpretation of the facts. 

Offenses always bring emotional pain, but when we allow God to exchange our pain by His power, He assigns a new interpretation of what happened and the negative emotional residue fades into the past.  In this sense, we can forgive and forget!  Let’s take a look at the life of Joseph recorded in Genesis 37-50 for a prime illustration of this wonderful reality!  

For our purposes today, let’s look at the events recorded in chapter 50 only.  Now second in command in the land of Egypt, Joseph says something to his brothers that illustrates this process.  He had been terribly mistreated by his brothers.  At 17, he was cast into a pit – probably an empty, deep well – because of their anger and jealousy.  Later he was sold to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt.  During the next thirteen years he faced his share of trials, but in the plan and purpose of God he ultimately triumphed and ended up as Egypt’s Prime Minster, second only to Pharaoh himself.

Psalm 105:17-19 describes his plight.  “He (God) sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:  Whose feet they hurt with fetters:  he was laid in iron:  Until the time that his word came:  the Word of the Lord tried him.”  I’m sure Joseph experienced many anxious days and anger during those trying years. 

Eventually, a severe famine in their homeland drove his brothers to Egypt to seek relief.  Joseph of course, recognized his siblings, but withheld his identity long enough to weigh their motives.  A game of cat and mouse centering on his beloved brother Benjamin followed until Joseph became convinced of his brothers’ changed hearts.  When life brings pain and unfair days, we have two choices.  We either respond negatively or positively.  We get bitter or better.  One definition of forgiveness is, “relinquishing our right to get even  or to take matters into our own hands.  In the soul realm Joseph perhaps had every right to punish his brothers.  Instead, he chose to embrace a righteous interpretation of the facts.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (verse 20).  That was Joseph’s defining moment!  A lot of people allow the inequities and hurts of life to become their defining moments.  They make a cognitive choice not to forgive.  In short, they assign negative emotions to what happened and anger rules their lives.  Remember, not forgiving is a choice!

Obviously, Joseph remembered his brothers’ harsh treatment years prior, however, he chose not to rehearse the details and to lay aside the emotional residue of his offense.  In that respect, he was able to forgive and forget!  When we place such matters in God’s hands, it is possible to forgive those who sin against us.  Forgiveness causes our memories to fade and our souls to heal.  In a very real sense, we do forget.  God heals our soul as we release our pain to Him in prayer.  The Spirit heals our mind and emotions.

How do we know when we’ve truly forgiven someone?  When the offense comes to mind, if indeed it does, and it no longer hurts.  The sting is gone!  Prayer is therapeutic, and as we release those who hurt us, the Holy Spirit gives a new interpretation of the situation and eliminates the pain.  Remember, Joseph had thirteen years to process his pain.  You can bet that his initial decision to forgive his brothers (back when) still held pain.  Eventually, total forgiveness erased his pain.  Our spiritual forefathers referred to this process as “praying through.”  This is but one of the beautiful and practical aspects of our sanctification.

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK:  I will turn to a more theological discussion regarding God’s offer of forgiveness. 



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