[The following is an excerpt from A Walk Thru the Life of Joseph: The Power of Forgiveness, a small group study guide from Walk Thru the Bible and Baker Books.
© 2009 by Walk Thru the Bible]
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Identity is a complicated thing. Our self-awareness is profoundly shaped by who our family is, by where we come from, and by the work we do, among other factors. So when a person is raised in a dysfunctional family, is removed from his or her own culture, and has to work in a dead-end job, self-identity takes a triple hit. Such trauma could have lasting impact on the person and ripple effects into future generations.
Joseph could have checked „all of the above”—a background of abuse, social disadvantages, and hopeless situations—and resigned himself to an obscure, tedious life. Apparently he didn’t. He probably couldn’t allow himself to. He was driven by a high calling and a firm belief that God was worthy of his obedience and loyalty, regardless of apparent setbacks.
If anyone ever had a right to be eaten away by bitterness, Joseph certainly did. Most of his brothers wanted him dead, especially after he told them of the dreams of glory God had given him. They settled for sending him away to a distant land in chains—sold him to some traders who took him to Egypt. Anything, as long as they didn’t have to deal with him. And their venomous attitude toward him resulted in long, painful years as an outsider of extremely low means.
Some people wear their offenses on their sleeves for the rest of their lives. They were betrayed or slighted in the past, and they never quite get over it. Their zeal for vindication, for vengeance, or even for simple justice consumes them. They may say they believe in God’s sovereignty, but they blame the people who hurt them as if God had abandoned them in their circumstances. They are firm believers in the adage that „a leopard can’t change its spots.” And their lack of mercy does nothing to help them heal from their wounds. In fact, it only deepens them.