The Sin Problem
June 2, 2021
The Core Problem
June 15, 2021

The Sinister Power of Guilt

People who get hurt or hurt other people experience the powerful emotions of guilt and shame. Unless they allow God to heal their hearts, they will carry this shame with them all their lives. Joseph’s brothers demonstrate this after they returned to Egypt after burying their father in Canaan, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” (Gen 50:15).

Their fears were unfounded, and their thoughts were completely irrational. Joseph’s words and actions toward them had been consistent with his forgiveness of them. He had never spoken one way and then acted another way. Look at what he said to them 17 years earlier: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Gen 45:5).

The years following their reconciliation with Joseph had been good. But, now that their father was gone, the sinister power of guilt began to raise its ugly head. Joseph had done nothing to justify their fears. When we suffer loss, our minds often return to the past. Clearly, it was guilt that drove their apprehension. It is incredible the torture that guilt and shame can do to us if left to do its foul work.

It appears that though Joseph had forgiven them, they had not asked his forgiveness, and indeed, they had not forgiven themselves. Some people will tell you just to forget the past and get over it. However, if there is pain and hurt, you will never be able to forget the past. Time heals all wounds is simply not true. We must deal with the past. There are strong emotions of rejection, anger, hurt, and many more that hang in limbo. We cannot change our past, but we must change how we see and feel about the past by forgiving the people who have hurt us or asking their forgiveness if we have hurt them. We must release our claim that they make it up to us.

If we have wronged people, we must address it, apologize to those we have hurt, and make things right.  We are not so much changing the past as we are redeeming the past. Joseph’s brothers knew nothing of this redemption. His brothers now sought Joseph’s forgiveness which he has already given. 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.” (Gen 50:16-18).

The message they sent to Joseph was likely a made-up story. There is no evidence Jacob had given this command for Joseph to forgive his brothers. Joseph had not done anything to cause his father to believe that he would harm his brothers. This is the work of shame. It is what shame and guilt do to people. If they do not realize they are forgiven and have not indeed faced the bad they have done—they will be slaves to shame.

When their message came to him, Joseph wept. Joseph’s forgiveness had already been given, and they had lived out his forgiveness for 17 years but had not fully comprehended what had been done for them. Does this not remind us of our inability at times to grasp the depth of God’s forgiveness for us? Joseph did not scold them or belittle them, although it was painful for him. Instead, he comforted them and promised to protect and provide for them the same God does for us.

(Parenting with a Long View) https://bovdbrooks.com/

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