The Joseph Principle

Forgiveness is an internal, personal journey that does not require the other party. Reconciliation does. But forgiveness can move forward without them.  This is a good thing because often the weight of hurt could not be lifted if we depended on the other party.

It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges to forgiveness is ongoing offenses and continued hurt.

Joseph knew betrayal like few of us have. Yes, that Joseph. The guy that became second-in-command in Egypt way back when.

His life is a life of betrayal.

First, the treachery of being nearly killed by his brothers and then “saved” by being sold as a slave instead.

Then, as he begins to pick up the pieces of his life, his master’s wife entraps him in sexual scandal. He honorably resists her and flees, but is imprisoned anyways.

From within jail, he begins to rise again. But the person that he helps get out of prison forgets him.  He had promised to plead Joseph’s case once he was free but he doesn’t so Joseph stays where he is.

Over and over he faces the (undeserved) mistreatment of near death, slavery, entrapment, and broken promises. Years pass. His life is “wasted” with each setback.

What was his attitude? How did he endure and still rise?

To dig this out we have to go back to the beginning of his story.

He was set apart from his brothers by two things…

First, a beautiful robe, given by his father to express his love for his son and I suspect love for his son’s mother. This caused jealousy in his brothers, but in every other event I’ve mentioned the robe is missing and not a factor.

The second thing that set Joseph apart is the dreams that came to him.  Whether dreamt himself, alone at night or by others and then recounted to him. The dreams were about the future, every time. This is significant.

And so these are the keys to understanding Joseph’s ability to make the best of any situation he found himself in.

1. He knew he was loved.
2. He knew there was a plan.

Pain upon pain, hurt upon hurt, alone in a foreign land, from loss to loss, Joseph endured and even — can I say it? — thrived.

At the end of his story he explains his perspective in a few short words:

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”. Genesis 50:20

Did he say this casually? Did he make it up on the spot?

I don’t believe so.

I believe that if you read his story carefully you’ll see that this is how he lived his life. He didn’t think back over the events after they’d happened and then finally see God’s hand in them like we normally do. “Hindsight is 20/20” and all that.

No, I believe that he lived as though God was guiding him forward through whatever painful or happy circumstances. That THIS MOMENT is God’s — no matter how it looks, how grim or awful.

What proof do I have? Two simple observations.

First, in each situation he found himself in he rose to the challenge and to leadership. That requires a certain personal perspective and belief. He’s not a victim: he’s inside of God’s plan.

Second, the end of his story is at the beginning. He already knew what was going to happen. Maybe not in full 4K color resolution. But he knew his destiny. If you recall, his first dreams were of his brothers and even his father bowing down to him. He was ridiculed for such audacity, such impertinence, even by his loving father. When these hungry people arrived in Egypt, they did indeed bow before Joseph, the highest authority in the land apart from Pharaoh himself.

Did he forgive them? Yes, he did. Was it difficult? Surprisingly, probably not. In fact, he pleaded with his brothers to not fight among themselves once they found out what happened.


How could he face all that he had, when he deserved none of it, and then forgive?

Because he knew God’s hand was in it all.

Am I making too much of this? I don’t believe so.  I’ve read through Joseph’s story many times searching for clues and I’ve come to realize his success was this simple (but not easy). I desire to live my life with this “Joseph Principle.”

Wouldn’t you?

1. You are loved.
2. God has a plan.

If we can be forgiven our lack of faith, we might just see ourselves within, surrounded by, and in the center of God’s plan.

There is no redemption for the most horrific of crimes without this idea.

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  1. Wonderful story and perspective.I’ve needed this especially now. I lost my only sibling who was 78 years old,my brother,who was murdered last January and in November my husband had a serious stroke and is in rehabilitation therapy. It’s been a tough time and forgiveness has been on the back burner for me during it. It’s hard sometimes to remember God does have a plan but I know He does love me even when it seems far away

  2. Thank you so much for that article on Joseph and Forgiveness. As I read it, felt emotions I had similar cases in my life. From this day forward I will remember: That I am Loved and God has a plan !!!

  3. My favorite story in the Bible…JOSEPH. N all he went through n with so much grace …how i only dream of such…i hold no grudges but still have soo many obstacles i was honored to read your outlook on forgiveness..Thank you n pray for me