Forgiveness is really hard. As fallen humans, it is not our natural response when we are hurt by others. But without forgiveness, bitterness, hatred, and a desire for revenge can arise within us, and they are heavy burdens to carry.
While forgiving others is difficult, we can also struggle with being forgiven. It took me a long time as a Christian to accept that God had completely forgiven me. I could get my head around God forgiving my sins from before I was a Christian. What I struggled with was that I kept sinning! How could He forgive that? I know I don’t deserve His forgiveness at all. However, I wasted a lot of time unable to accept God’s forgiveness and I allowed it to affect my relationship with Him.
I was like Adam and Eve, foolishly hiding in the garden. God used Joseph’s story to teach me, showing me more of His forgiveness.
We know what Joseph’s brothers did; how in their jealousy they wanted to kill him but settled to sell him as a slave. They allowed their father to believe he was dead, even though he wept bitterly over Joseph for years.
While those years changed the brothers into being protective of Benjamin, they were so terrified when Joseph revealed himself that they couldn’t speak. Joseph told them not to be angry with themselves because God had sent him ahead to save many lives including theirs, as the famine was to continue for another five years (Genesis 45:4–7).
As a result, the whole family moved to Egypt, and Jacob, now called Israel, lived there for seventeen years (Genesis 47:28). All this time Joseph looked after everyone, spent time with them, and loved them.
However, when Israel died, Joseph’s brothers were again gripped by fear. Would Joseph now avenge their wrongdoing? This might reflect their hearts more than Joseph’s. If their positions were switched that’s what they would do!
Joseph wept when he received their letter. He could get angry and finally get even. But instead, he called the brothers to him and repeated what he told them seventeen years earlier. He didn’t want them to be afraid. He reminded them that God used their wrongdoing for good to save many. He let them know he’d keep providing for them and their children. He truly had forgiven them. Then he spoke kindly to them.
Isn’t this how God treats us? He forgives us, lovingly reassures us, provides for us, and speaks kindly to us. It’s not what we deserve but it is how God is. We can be sure that our sins are forgiven and that the Lord chooses to forget them. He no longer calls to mind the wrongs we have done (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12). We are freed from the burden of our sin. Even when I mess up again I can come and know His gracious forgiveness. The punishment for my sin is paid by Jesus.
Like Joseph, Jesus was treated badly, sold out for some pieces of silver, and wrongly accused, beaten, and killed. Yet God used this for a good purpose, to save the lives of many—including mine! I am free to live as God designed me to be, in relationship with Him. This means that when I come to our heavenly Father, it is His perfect love that transforms me, not my will to try harder.
Maybe you’re struggling to forgive someone.
- Pray, ask the Lord to help you, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44–48).
- Remember how much God has forgiven you, this frees us to forgive others (Matthew 18:23–35).
- Seek to do them good, refrain from gossiping or using any position you have over them (1 Peter 3:8–9).
- Know the Lord can bring good from this terrible situation, even if they haven’t asked for forgiveness. Joseph forgave his brothers long before he saw them again.
It is important to note that forgiveness does not mean that you allow someone to keep hurting you. We must use wisdom.
Maybe like me, you struggle to accept forgiveness from someone or from the Lord. Be humble, and accept the gracious forgiveness offered to you. Allow the restoration of your relationship. Remember that God can bring good even out of our mistakes. This doesn’t mean we sin on purpose, but we can trust the Lord is in control and remembers our sins no more.
Let us be women who seek, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). We can do this as we rely on the Prince of Peace who has transformed us; His forgiveness has brought peace and joy to our souls.
“He does not deal with us as our sins deserve;
he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.
For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.”
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