“God sent me before you to preserve life”Genesis 45:5
Joseph meant this and it shows that he had absolutely forgiven his brothers. He wanted healing, reconciliation and restoration in his family. He had seen his brothers’ agony of guilt which led to humble and repentant hearts. He could see the hand of God in all the deliberate evil that had come upon him because it positioned him to be able to save his family. Since his life had been purposed by God to make him the man he now was, and position him in a place to save his family for the emergence of the nation of Israel, he could not do anything else but forgive his brothers. His final statement to his brothers on the matter was, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). He doesn’t minimise the evil but he sees God’s purpose in it.
When we understand that the Lord has been directing our paths, even if through painful experiences, we will gladly hold no one in debt to us. As Joseph explains, God has taken each of us on the path He has in order to place us where we are, with the skills and abilities we have, in order to serve Him by serving His people where we are, with what we have. When people do evil against us, even intentionally, God intends it to thrust us into His presence just as a hurt child to its mother.
People who get bitter and angry about events in their past do not recognize that it has been God who has directed their path. Joseph could have been angry with God for not protecting him. He could have been bitter against his brothers for selling him into slavery. He could have blamed his father for not checking his brothers’ report more thoroughly. Now in a position of power he could have taken vengeance on them. Instead he recognized God’s divine providence and overseeing and was therefore readily able to forgive his brothers and actively make reconciliation and restoration a reality. That is how we will be able to forgive those who we believe have wronged us. The apostle Paul may have had this in the back of his mind when writing to the Christians in Rome. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). When we believe this, especially the “all things,” we will no longer be angry or bitter with others or with God concerning our circumstances.