15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 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. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Genesis 50:15-21 NASB
Pain is neither a comfortable nor an enjoyable feeling. Even more burdensome than the pain itself are all the various avenues through which we can experience pain, whether those avenues consist of unfavorable circumstances, such as sickness, or ones that lead to self-betterment, such as exercise. Some of the most excruciating pain we can experience comes in the form of betrayal, especially from family members, friends, any person whom we have genuinely loved and considered an integral individual in our lives. Whether the betrayal was premeditated and calculated or unintentional and inadvertent, the pain we experience in either context hurts equally as much as the other. No over-the-counter prescription or three-step formula can eliminate the pain of betrayal or provide a one-time, universal solution to the pain caused. An extremely powerful and underrated tool, however, in the journey to healing from betrayal is a renewed perspective. Often times, we view personal experiences involving betrayal through the lens of “I’m hurt”, and understandably so. What requires tremendous resolve and commitment on our part as believers is the shifting of our view from the lens of “I’m hurt” to “God, use my hurt to accomplish Your will".
Genesis 50 represents not only the culmination of the book of Genesis, but also the culmination of the individual accounts of Jacob, also known as Israel, and his favorite son, Joseph. At the beginning of this chapter, it is revealed that Jacob, the patriarch of this prominent family, has died, and now his ten oldest sons, the ones who originally sold Joseph into slavery due to their intense jealousy of him, are worried that Joseph will seek revenge against them (“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!’”). As a result, they send a message to Joseph on behalf of their now-deceased father pleading with him to forgive them for their malicious acts (“So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.’”).
As his brothers spoke, Joseph wept, undoubtedly with emotion over the death of his father, but also in the recollection of the events that landed him in Egypt, specifically his brothers stripping him of his multi-colored coat, throwing him into a pit, and selling him into slavery. Joseph’s brothers bowed down before him and pledged their service to him in the hope that their submission would appease any underlying desire for vengeance. In response to his brothers’ submission, Joseph demonstrates a complete, renewed perspective regarding the events that led to his arrival in Egypt and the significant role his brothers played in those events. First, Joseph instructs his brothers saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?”. He observed that they were fearful of him possibly seeking revenge against them. Joseph reminds his brothers that although he is the governor of Egypt, he is not God; he is not in the position to punish or condemn them for their actions against him. Although he had every reason to resent his brothers and seek vengeance, Joseph recognized that God alone possessed the right and authority to discipline his brothers as He saw fit!
Moreover, Joseph explains to his brothers that God used their plans of evil intent to ultimately produce a greater result of goodwill (“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's brothers wanted him to suffer; they wanted him to experience the pain they suppressed as a result of being overlooked by their father. Selling their second-youngest brother into slavery was a malevolent act that emerged from a deep-seated place of intense jealousy. While turning against Joseph was a premeditated and calculated move on the part of his brothers, so was God's move in ordaining Joseph’s seemingly unfortunate journey into slavery to accomplish His plan of preserving a nation! In His sovereignty, God already knew the plans of Joseph’s brothers, and yet He did not stop them because even their plans of evil ultimately served to fulfill His purposes!
From serving as a slave in Potiphar’s house to being falsely imprisoned to interpreting the dreams of two significant prisoners, God ultimately orchestrated all these events according to His perfect timing so that Joseph, the one whom He had gifted to interpret dreams through His inspiration, would be recruited to interpret a dream that was integral to the survival of the land of Egypt and beyond. Had Joseph’s brothers never sold him into slavery, the Egyptians may have never survived the seven years of famine. In the midst of the pain he suffered at the hands of his own family, Joseph discerned not only God’s greater plan but also his specific role in fulfilling that plan. Because he was able to discern the sovereign way in which God used his journey to ultimately preserve a people, Joseph liberated his own self from any bitterness and anger he may have had towards his brothers. In this newfound freedom, Joseph promised to serve and provide for his brothers and their families in the aftermath of their father's death ("So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them'").
The ability to view these types of situations from the proper perspective will not only facilitate healing but also free us up to show love and compassion to those who have hurt us! We can take this step when we acknowledge that we are not in God’s place, that we do not have the authority to determine the exact way in which a person will reap from their actions. We can also take this step more readily when we acknowledge the abundance of grace and mercy God has freely poured out on our lives in spite of all the things we have done to grieve His heart and Spirit! Surely, we deserved to be condemned and eternally punished, and even though God had the absolute right to do so, He chose not to out of the abundance of His mercy towards us! Romans 8:28 fervently reminds us that God causes all things, even the not-so-good things such as the pain of betrayal, to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose! We must continue to remember two of the most significant qualities that distinguish the God of our faith from all other gods: His sovereignty and His ability to produce beauty from pain.