Friendship Strained

Hebrews 10:24 Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love.

Have you ever had it happen where you knew someone and you did things together, but all of a sudden they dropped off from your life? Being a pastor, we have it happen quite often. It is one of the hardest relationships with people to navigate, but it is also the most rewarding. Like anyone else, if I did not get joy out of seeing the light come on (fresh revelation being revealed to them personally) then I would not be doing it.

Yesterday, my husband and I were walking around a local thrift store. He is a big thrifter and likes to find items to resell. My kids and him have a Youtube channel called Bama Pickin’ and Grinnin (click on the link to see what they have been up to). I saw someone out that I had not seen in years. I went up to them and said hello. I was met with, “I did not know you were in here,” as their eyes darted in all directions but me. I complimented her on some things and then went on my way. I wondered, what had I done to muster such a look of discomfort from an old friend.

My question was, did I offend them? What stronghold are they holding on against me? Then my heart hurt for them. I never want to spur others to anger. I want to do what the above scripture says. I prayed their hearts would be softened to the Holy Spirit and prayed Luke 6:36-37 (AMP) over them and myself: Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful. Do not judge [others self-righteously], and you will not be judged; do not condemn [others when you are guilty and unrepentant], and you will not be condemned [for your hypocrisy]; pardon [others when they truly repent and change], and you will be pardoned [when you truly repent and change].

There are always two sides to a story (more than one perspective). When we do sit down and talk to each other, really listen to each other. Just because a person has a different perspective than you does not mean they are your enemy, or that they are wrong (this is not talking about the Word of God). The body of Christ is stronger when it is unified and not divided in an issue. So let us (Ephesians 4:32 in the amplified) Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Is it really worth holding onto something for so many years? Is it really worth losing compassion? Is it really worth hardening your heart? Christ forgave me, therefore, I need to be readily and freely ready to forgive others.

What Joseph taught me about forgiveness

Have you ever heard the statement, “It is always the closest to you that hurts you the most”? I never understood it, until I had to live through it. This past week I spent time in Genesis and I got to the story of Joseph. As I was reading I wept, because I knew what he was going through. Yes, Joseph probably should have kept his mouth closed when he told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him. However, when God gives us a revelation sometimes we are just so excited we cannot help but blurt it out!

When I read this statement: And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked (Genesis 37:8b MSG), it reminded me of how it felt about not being invited for family events. My husband and I pastor a church…it is the most amazing thing we have ever done and we love it. We have family that attend our church, and we also have family that no longer attend our church. It does not matter to me where any of my family attend. It matters to me that they have a relationship with God and His people, that they are serving where God tells them to. I want them to love Jesus! However, it does still hurt not to be included. Yes, I have made mistakes. I did push, when I should have been more compassionate. Like Joseph, I was over zealous and it was not received!

If you do not know the story of Joseph I encourage you to read Genesis 37-50. I will paraphrase this for you, it is very long but an important story.

Joseph is one of twelve brothers. He is the son of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel being the wife that Jacob wanted, but was tricked into marrying her sister, Leah, first. Jacob ended up having children by four different women (sibling rivalry is to blame). Joseph was his favorite. Joseph had a special gift and could interpret dreams. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and one day decided to do away with him. They sold him into slavery and Joseph ends up in Egypt. Jacob thinks that Joseph is dead.

Life is pretty good for Joseph in Egypt until one day he was falsely accused of rape and is put in prison. However, Joseph was a model prisoner is put in charge there. One day he meets two other prisoners, he interprets their dreams and they come true. Then, Pharaoh has two dreams that deeply trouble him. One of the prisoners, that he interpreted dreams for, remembered Joseph! Of all the people Pharaoh surrounded himself with, only Joseph was able to interpret these troubling dreams. The wisdom that was revealed in those dreams earned Joseph a position so high that only Pharaoh was above him. Joseph received the revelation that seven years of abundance was going to be followed by seven years of famine, and he had the wisdom to prepare.

Joseph was in charge of rations during the time of famine. All were affected, including his family in Canaan. Jacob, Joseph’s father, heard there was food in Egypt and sent his son’s (all but the youngest, who was Joseph’s brother by the same mother) to buy food for the family. What do you think Joseph thought when he saw his brother’s after so many years? The part that I thought was amazing was that they did not even recognize him, but he knew them!

This is the part of the story that I wept (the first time). God, can I change? Could I reflect your compassion so much that the old me becomes unrecognizable? Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh, that means he was near forty when he saw his brothers again.

Could I reflect your compassion so much that the old me becomes unrecognizable?

Initially, Joseph was not very compassionate. He spoke harshly to them, he accused them of being spies and threw them in jail. He was very inquisitive of their history, and they even divulged what they had done to Joseph (not knowing that was who they were talking to). Joseph sends them off with food, but keeps one brother in prison until they come back with all of Jacob’s sons. They return home and tell their dad that one of the brothers is in prison until they come back with the youngest too. Let me just say, they did not come back immediately. They waited until they were out of food again!

This time they show up with Joseph’s brother, Benjamin. He is doted on just the way Joseph had been done by his father. His brother’s are so very protective of him that Joseph sets up a little trap. He wants to see if they will save their own selves for Benjamin’s sake. They don’t by the way. They do not want to see their father broken again. Any one of them would take Benjamin’s place so that their father will not have to go through that heartbreak again.

All through this time Joseph kept the charade. He used an interpreter so that they would not know he spoke their language. He would leave the room at any given moment, looking like it was a power play when in reality he was sobbing uncontrollably in the next room. He was broken.

When it came time to reveal his true identity, he and his brothers embraced. Joseph cried so loudly that his servants went and told Pharaoh all that was transpiring. Joseph had gained so much favor that he was able to send for his father and all of his family (seventy in total) to live in a land that would provide during the famine. The moment Joseph saw his father, he threw himself on his neck and wept. He wept a long time. Every time that Joseph is recorded as weeping, I actually wept.

Jacob soon dies after they arrive in Goshen. Genesis 50:15-17 (MSG) After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?” So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin – all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?” When Joseph received their message, he wept.

See in chapter 41, before the famine comes, we read that Joseph has two sons. The first he names Manassaeh (Forget), saying, “God made me forget all my hardships and my parental home.” He named his second son Ephraim (Double Prosperity) saying, “God has prospered me in the land of my sorrow.” I believe Joseph wept because they did not see that they did not have to make those statements. I wept.

When we lay our lives down and want to see the best for those that turn away from you, that is true forgiveness. Joseph responded to his brothers, “Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart. Oh, how I wept!

Father, allow me to walk in this type of forgiveness. Let me have the compassion to not hold onto the hurt, but want to do everything in my power to see that they are blessed, even more than they deserve!

Maybe, you find it easy to forgive and forget. I have to admit that I do struggle with it, but I do not want to be like that. It is a process. Joseph, like us, had to go through the process. We do not know his reason for weeping. We can weep out of sorrow, out of anger, in joy…there are a number of reasons. I weep desiring for a changed heart. A heart healed through forgiveness!