But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to
bring it about as it is this day, to save many people…
Genesis 50:20, NKJV
Pain is a difficult thing to make sense of in this life. Especially pain that is consciously inflicted by other people. Are any of you still reeling from cruel actions and words long since silenced by time? Do events of the past still follow you into the present, influencing your self-concept, your relationships with God and others, your thoughts?
I’ve been there, friend. To go further, I’m there right now. I still struggle with hurtful words said to me many years ago. I still struggle with people who hurt me at a young age. I want them to know how much they hurt me. I want them to hurt back.
It is much easier, I think, to forgive someone when they apologize. But what if they never say the words “I’m sorry”? What if years go by and they fade out of your life, their hurtful words and actions burning a brand into your heart? I have let myself be marked all over with the mean words and actions of people. Have you?
If anyone had a reason to not forgive, it was Joseph, whose story spans the last thirteen chapters of the book of Genesis. At the age of seventeen, he was sold into slavery by his jealous half-brothers. This set into motion a chain of events in which he became the chief steward of Potiphar’s household, was wrongly accused of raping Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned, interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer and eventually Pharaoh himself, became second-in-command over all of Egypt, and eventually saved the land and his family from famine-induced starvation. Years—decades—passed before he saw his brothers again. And though he experienced much hardship and injustice during that time, gradually he began to see the good that had come from his brothers’ evil, so much so that after all that time, when his brothers finally begged his forgiveness, he could say, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
Now, I don’t know what past evil you are struggling with. But for me, these words are an immeasurable comfort. I’m not out of the battle yet, but I am beginning to see just a little bit of the good that God has wrought out of the evil. If you can’t see it yet, pray for God to show you just a glimpse of how He can use your testimony to help others. I promise that it’s there.
I think it is partly for our own sakes that Jesus tells us to forgive. God says in His Word that “vengeance is Mine” (Deuteronomy 32:35). By forgiving others, we are entrusting our hurts to God, knowing that He will set things aright in His time. Bitterness will only destroy us, but forgiveness will free us from being controlled by the past.
In the meantime, wait and trust God to take what was meant for evil and use it for good. And let us eagerly await the day when “God will wipe every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NKJV).