“So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, I pray you.’ . . . And he kissed his brothers and wept upon them, and after that his brothers talked with him.” Genesis 45:4, 15
These words come from one of the most moving scenes in all of scripture. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He had endured terrifying threats but had ascended to the right hand of Pharaoh. All the while his brothers thought him gone forever and probably dead. During a famine in Canaan, the brothers journeyed to Egypt for grain and probably were baffled by having to meet with such a high official. After concealing his identity, Joseph revealed himself in a scene of tender forgiveness and reconciliation.
We can learn many lessons from Joseph’s story.
First, much of the pain in your life will come from the people closest to you. Family and friends are on your inner circle, and you have to be close in order to reach out and strike someone else. You can forget about a rude stranger, but you will bear the scars of a harsh family member for a lifetime. Your heart will ache when you recall a friend that is no longer a friend. Close relationships offer great blessings, but also the potential for great pain. Vulnerability is a function of proximity.
Second, your healing often comes through relationships. I walk very carefully through this minefield and ask that you pay close attention. Some people have suffered tremendous damage at the hands of a parent or sibling, and as much as we might want it to be so, you cannot always repair a relationship. However, much of the time God will work on your heart and the heart of the estranged family member or friend, and provide an opportunity for reconciliation. God did that for Joseph and his brothers, and Joseph likely would never have been whole without the story in Genesis 45. The same relationship that caused the damage is often the same relationship that provides the restoration.
Third, because of the potential for reconciliation, cultivate a forgiving spirit. Joseph probably was not always open to this possibility, but God worked with him. Whether or not you ever get a chance for reconciliation, you still do not want to carry with you a burden of bitter disappointment and anger. Forgive, pray a blessing, and move forward, always open to the opportunity God may provide. As Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).
Do not close any door. And do not be concerned to keep pounding on it. God will provide for your healing, and if the person who hurt you chooses to be part of that graces solution then the blessing will be for him or her also. You may occasionally knock, perhaps through a card or brief phone call, but do not make your peace contingent upon a person who historically demonstrates unreliability.
Grace is so infinitely pervasive, so wonderful ubiquitous that you never know where it might come from or from whom. Do not set your hopes on the estranged family member turning around and embracing you and asking for forgiveness. But do not be surprised if some day, many years in the future, that does occur. Just do not mandate that as the only way God can give you grace for your healing.
Dr. Terry Ellis
July 10, 2011