How do you deal with your past? Do you hold tightly to things that have happened to you, allowing them to continually influence your outlook on life? We are all products of our past, both the good and the bad. People and events leave their mark on our minds and hearts, and every experience shapes our attitudes. How we deal with our past determines if we spend our days in joy and peace, or in bitterness, unforgiveness, regret, anger, or depression.
Joseph was a man who had experienced a lot of harsh things, even from childhood. He was his father’s favorite, receiving special treatment that alienated him from his brothers through no fault of his own. God clearly had His hand on Joseph from the beginning, giving him dreams and visions of the future. Unfortunately, at seventeen he lacked the maturity to keep this special knowledge to himself and relating his dreams came across as boastful.
Joseph had every opportunity to become a bitter old man. His brothers threw him in a pit, then decided to sell him as a slave. He was convicted and sent to prison simply because he refused to commit adultery with his employer’s wife. He was forgotten by the people he helped, and he spent twenty-two years of his adult life estranged and separated from his family.
Life got better for Joseph when the opportunity came to interpret Pharoah’s dream. He was elevated to the highest position in the land, second in command only to Pharoah himself. This success did not come because Joseph worked hard and earned it. Joseph’s success was rooted in his unfailing faith in God. In every uncomfortable and painful situation, we are told that Joseph advanced because God’s hand was upon him.
As often happens in every life story, circumstances occurred that brought Joseph face to face with his past. In need of food, his father, Jacob, sends his ten brothers to Egypt to purchase grain from Pharoah’s storehouse. Unbeknownst to them, it is the brother they sold into slavery who determines their fate. They don’t recognize the tall, imposing Egyptian ruler they humbly bow before as the scrappy seventeen-year-old whose death they faked, bringing much grief to their father.
Joseph can’t resist giving them a bit of a hard time, although he has to leave the room at times to weep, his heart overcome with being reunited with his family. When he finally reveals himself, his brothers are deeply concerned that he will take his revenge on them. And why not? He has the position and the power; their lives are in his hands. They don’t know that God has healed his heart and he has let go of all the pain in his past, surrendering it to the sovereignty and wisdom of God. In the moments of reunion, he fully recognizes that all his suffering had a greater purpose and that while the journey was painful, God had protected and sustained him through it for something good.
Genesis 50:19-20 – But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 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.”
Joseph made peace with his past long before the opportunity came to make peace with his brothers. With the birth of his two sons, he declared that God had made him forget the troubles and those who had hurt him and made him fruitful in the midst of the afflictions (Genesis 41:51-52). As he explained it to his brothers years later, he was not “in God’s place.” Their sin was against God, and he had no right to withhold forgiveness. He trusted more in the sovereignty of God than in any man’s ability to determine his fate. This decision of his will – to leave the past in God’s hands and trust God to judge those who had wronged him – allowed him to move forward in life and enjoy the blessings and rewards of his faith.
How about you? Are there things in your past that you just can’t seem to let go of? Are there people who have hurt you deeply that you still can’t forgive? Are you in God’s place?
Step out of the way and trust God’s sovereignty and wisdom in all of life – the good and the bad, the painful and the pleasant, the success and the failure. Let God bring good out of what others meant for evil. We can’t control what happens to us, but with God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s help, we can control what we do with it.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.