Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

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Speak Peaceably

When [Joseph's] brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him. Genesis 37:4

For the last ten years or so, I have read through the entire Bible each year at least once. And every year when I get to the story of Joseph, I am struck by so many interesting details of the story of Joseph. Here's a man who--although arrogant--was wrongly accused. He was devoted in His relationship to God. He faithfully served God and others despite his circumstances. He trusted God to elevate him at the right time. He clung to the vision God had given him for life even through unbelievable circumstances. He forgave the unforgivable. 

And so much more...

Last week, as I read through the account of Joseph's life yet again, the Holy Spirit simply illuminated Genesis 37:4. The words "they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him" pierced my heart. I was in the grips of an anger and bitterness that was consuming my life--and I could not speak peaceably to an individual who had once been a good friend.

What happened? Over the last six months, I have seen repeated instances of less than truthful words. I have heard stories of my words being twisted and my intentions misconstrued. My heart has been heavy as I've heard how this individual has talked behind my back, instead choosing to side with an individual who has a somewhat unsavory reputation in our community.

Honestly, it has hurt me deeply. I've been disappointed by the reality with which I have been confronted. I realize I have been duped--my trusting nature allowed me to be sucked in by the stories. 

And I have found myself unable to speak peaceably to this individual.

As I read the words from Genesis 37:4, I came face-to-face with my anger. My bitterness. My lack of forgiveness. My heart was pierced, and God began a healing work in my life. 

I'm not sure my relationship will ever be the same, and that's ok. I have learned over the years to erect boundaries when appropriate. But I've also felt God softening my heart, helping me confront the anger and bitterness and condition of my heart. 

What did Joseph's brothers do when they could not speak peaceably to Joseph?

They stripped him of his coat, a gift from their father. They conspired against him. Threw him into a pit. Planned to kill him until his oldest brother spoke up. Sold him into slavery. Deceived their father. Their anger and bitterness caused them to begin a dangerous spiral into sin. Their anger led them to hurt so many people they loved. Their anger caused Joseph years of pain and devastation.

I don't want that to happen to me. I don't want to cause anyone pain and devastation. I don't want to be eaten up with anger and bitterness. 

I want to be able to speak peaceably to all people.

How do we speak peaceably to someone who has wronged us?

Repent of our sins. I know I was the one who was wronged, but the wrongs done against me caused me to sit with my anger and bitterness. I had rehearsed the wrongs done against me, repeatedly reviewed the lies that had been told. I had focused on what I wanted to say and do. I had been consumed by the bitterness.

Do you think Joseph did the same, remembering the actions of his brothers? Do you think as he sat in that pit he thought about the pain his brothers were causing him? I can certainly see in those early days feeling the many emotions that go with betrayal. But, somewhere along the way, he turned his heart toward God and repented of his sins. No, he didn't cause the situation, but God probably needed to do a work in His heart.

Ask God for help. As soon as I read this passage, I knew I needed God's help to speak peaceably. I began to ask God for help, asking Him to speak through me. I asked Him to put His words in my mouth, to let my words be coated in kindness and humility. 

I truly doubt Joseph had a lot of warm fuzzies for his brothers in those early days. My guess is that somewhere along the way God pierced His heart just as He did mine. Somewhere along the way, Joseph likely came face-to-face with the condition of his heart. Somewhere along the way, he stopped and asked God to help him forgive and speak peaceably.

Focus on God's faithfulness. I have no doubt Joseph survived all those years of slavery and prison by focusing on God's faithfulness. How else was he able to forgive his brothers and say, "Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people" (Genesis 50:19-20).

Throughout scripture. we are told repeatedly to focus our minds on God, on His faithfulness, if we want to experience His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Rehearsing God's goodness instead of the wrongs done against us yields a peace that covers our hearts and minds and lives. I don't know about you, but I enjoy God's perfect peace so much more than the turmoil of wrongs done against me!

You know, as soon as I began to see my part in the situation and asked for God's help speaking peaceably, my heart changed. I felt a peace that had been missing from my life, and I remembered the power of forgiveness. It is an ongoing process to remove the root of bitterness that had grown up in my heart, but I am working on it. 

God is working on me.