Recently, I’ve been struggling with my own response to someone who has treated me harshly. In the past, I have often exploded in anger and bitterness. To tell the truth, I grew up in an environment where we fought “a lot,” and being bullied at school didn’t help matters.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much knowledge of forgiving by the time I reached adulthood. My default way to handle mistreatment was to verbally retaliate. Big time!
It’s only because of reading the Bible and studying more about God, that I have any strength to resist the urge to fight back against verbal jabs.
I can see how He is reaching out to me through others’ wisdom. I subscribe to a few Christian publishers’ email newsletters, and today there was a devotional that talked about Joseph’s example in the Old Testament.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.Genesis 50:15-21, NIV
When I was reading that email article, and considering the other stories of how Joseph didn’t fight back against the way his brothers had wronged him, I see how challenging it is to follow his example. I wish I had his restraint all the time! I definitely don’t have this down pat. Not by a long shot. And I don’t have Joseph’s same experiences to deal with.
But I was also remembering how I have felt after retaliating toward someone, be it verbally, attacking their reputation, or even using physical violence. Inside I’ve felt awful, bitter, depressed, broken.
When I choose to forgive someone instead of fighting them, it can feel sort of like a secret weapon. Putting the anger or aggression or bullying back in their court, and refusing to take on their bitterness. Letting God be the judge… which isn’t my role to take on in the first place.
Oh, I wish I had a grip on this all the time! (Or even most of the time. I’ve got a long way to go yet.)
But when I do manage to trust in God with my anger and not let myself fly off the handle, I feel so much better. Less stressed. I need lots of prayers about this!