Text: Genesis 44:1-34, Genesis 45:1-15, Galatians 3:14
Growing up, I was vaguely aware of Joseph and his coat of many colors. I even ice skated to a song about it when I was ten, wearing the amazing colorful costume my mom covered in giant rhinestones for me. As I got older, I came to learn the real story of Joseph: how his father gave him that colorful coat, causing his brothers to envy him, how those envious brothers sold him into slavery, and how Joseph triumphed over all those events and became a powerful leader in Egypt. I love an underdog story (who doesn’t?), and Joseph’s story always seemed to epitomize that. But lately, Joseph’s story has become so much more to me.
Recently, I was deeply hurt by some people I love dearly. I wanted so badly to forgive them, but in my heart, I struggled to actually do so. The phrase “easier said than done” resonated as I found myself waffling between communicating love and then sadness, forgiveness and then anger.
When I turned to God’s Word for guidance in how to truly forgive, I didn’t expect to be drawn to the story of Joseph. Here was a man who’d suffered tremendously at the hands of those he trusted. He was betrayed by his own brothers, torn from relationship with his beloved father, and even wrongfully imprisoned (Genesis 37, 39).
So, years later, when Joseph’s brothers unknowingly came to him for help (Genesis 42:6-7), there were so many angry, broken, bitter ways he could have responded. He could’ve used the opportunity to humiliate his brothers, withhold his help from them, or take revenge for everything they’d done to him.
But that’s not how Joseph chose to respond. Instead, he was utterly vulnerable and wept aloud. He refused to blame his brothers and openly gave glory to God for His plan and provision (Genesis 45:1-8).
This is such a contradiction to what my own heart is naturally prone to do. And in my career as professional counselor, I’ve seen it time and time again: our natural inclination is to retreat and self-protect. It seems we’re afraid to show others our sadness and pain, as if it’s somehow safer to put up walls of anger and silence—even while we long to be understood and feel a close connection with those we love.
Joseph had every reason not to trust his brothers, to want to protect himself instead; yet he placed his trust in God. Joseph’s identity and security were so deeply rooted in God, he was able to forgive his brothers entirely, and invite them into his presence and under his protection (Genesis 45:9-11).
Joseph’s response blows me away, and yet, isn’t it a reflection of God’s response to us? We’d like to think we’re always the honorable underdog, like Joseph. But we’re also his vengeful brothers, we’re the villagers throwing stones (John 8:3-11), and we’re the ones who put Christ on a cross (1 Peter 2:24).
Joseph offered his brothers forgiveness where they feared condemnation, but how much more does Christ offer us in His life, death, and resurrection! Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus petitioned for our forgiveness, saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Because of God, Joseph was able to forgive his brothers. And because of Christ, we can forgive those who hurt us, knowing we’ve all fallen short in our sin but we’ve been forgiven entirely (Romans 3:23-24, 1 John 1:9).
I have offended a perfect God more horrendously than I can bear, and I’ve been forgiven more completely than I can fathom. Mercy upon mercy upon mercy has been heaped upon me. Out of this relationship with an overwhelmingly gracious God, I find that I, too, can be moved, changed, and compelled to truly forgive.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. Jesus dramatically changed her life in high school, giving her a heart for those who don’t yet know the love of Christ. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.