Next to the greatest story ever told, the story of Joseph is by far my favorite Bible story. There are so many valuable lessons one can learn from reading it. Some lessons that stand out to me are the sovereignty of God, the importance of trusting God even in the midst of tragedy and suffering, and the beauty and power of forgiveness.
I have often asked myself if I would have had Joseph’s attitude in the midst of a seemingly unending chain of absolutely horrific events. In spite of the terrible hand that he continued to be dealt, we don’t see him being consumed by anger, self-pity or a quest for vengeance. There’s something very powerful about Joseph’s unwavering faith in God that inspires me. He seems to possess a quiet assurance that everything is ultimately going to be okay.
In this 45th chapter of Genesis, we see Joseph revealing his true identity to his brothers. We know he had risen to a very prominent position of power as second in command of Egypt. The stage could have been set for him to get the “perfect revenge” against his brothers. We read in verse 5 right after Joseph reveals his identity to his brother: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” I find it especially poignant that not only does Joseph not want to exact revenge in this situation, he actually chooses to comfort his brothers in this moment rather than “giving them what for.” We know from earlier scriptures that Joseph was clearly hurt by their previous actions, but he wants to spare them the hurt of being angry with themselves or beating themselves up because of their actions. He points them to an understanding of God’s sovereignty and that they were players in God’s plan.
How differently that 45th chapter of Genesis could have played out if Joseph had been bent on vengeance. Instead, we see the true beauty and power of forgiveness and a reminder that God is in control even in the midst of our darkest hours.
If we choose to be consumed with anger or self-pity, we miss the important lessons God is trying to teach us. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Perhaps the answer in those dark times is to focus on loving God even more deeply and purposely than ever before.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1) When you encounter hardships and tragedies, does your attitude reflect one of unwavering faith in God? If not, how can you further nurture and strengthen that faith so that it is at the ready when life’s storms come your way?
2) What action can help us love God more deeply and purposely than ever before?
3) What other lessons can you learn from the story of Joseph?