It’s hard to imagine Joseph’s story ending on such a positive note. After all, it started out with him being sold into slavery by insanely jealous brothers. His father thought he was dead. Joseph could have easily arrested his brothers when they showed up begging for food—if not have them put to death on trumped-up charges—and I suppose he could have walked away feeling perfectly justified.
What would move him to choose the road of mercy and forgiveness and not that of judgment? Joseph must have known deep in his heart how much God had been looking out for him. He could have been killed more than once, or ended up like most other slaves of Egyptian royalty. But instead, Joseph ended up safe and sound, virtually running the whole nation, with a wife and children to boot. Joseph knew that his good fortune was more than luck; he saw God’s loving and providential hand at work in his life, and that softened his heart towards his brothers. Rather than seek vengeance on them, he became an instrument of the same mercy that God had lavished on him.
Some of us may have experienced relationships that have soured over time. We all know what it feels like to be hurt by the careless word of someone we care for or by a friend’s lack of kindness during a time of struggle. In all of these situations, we are like Joseph, and we have to decide whether to sit in judgment or to try hard to forgive. But we can make that decision to forgive only as we let God help us. Only he can produce divine mercy in our hearts.
When we open ourselves to God we open ourselves to his grace; grace that empowers us to let go of anger and resentment. Even if the one who has hurt us is not able to ask us for forgiveness, we can still extend God’s mercy to them. Besides, you never know what the future holds. Perhaps that person will come back into your life one day, just as Joseph’s brothers showed up out of the blue. God loves giving his children happy endings—endings which we can accelerate by our own hearts of forgiveness.