Consider the life of Joseph. God gave Joseph a vivid dream of his future, but shortly afterward, everything began to go awry. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into a dungeon when his boss’s wife lied about him, and was forgotten by a fellow prisoner he had helped (Genesis 37–48). He had very limited freedom in his life, but he still had the right to choose his response to all that had happened to him. Would he become offended and bitter toward his brothers and eventually God? Would he give up all hope of the promise’s fulfillment, robbing himself of his last incentive to live? Joseph had more than sufficient opportunity to hold onto offense toward those who had wronged him so greatly. Instead, he chose to keep his heart tender before the Lord, choosing to extend forgiveness where it wasn’t deserved.
Even when we are wronged, we can choose to be obedient to the Lord instead of giving in to offense. To become offended will only fulfill the enemy’s purpose of getting us out of the will of God. If we stay free from offense, we will stay in God’s will. If we become offended, we will be taken captive by the enemy to fulfill his own purpose and will. There is no man, woman, child, or devil that can ever get us out of the will of God! Only God holds our destiny. Joseph ended up blessing those who had cursed him and doing good to those who hated him. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
You will be mistreated. That is a simple fact of life. “It is impossible,” Jesus said, “that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1 NKJV). So it’s not a question of IF, but WHEN. And when you are wronged, you will be presented with a critical choice. You can either choose to hold on to the wrongs committed against you and live in unforgiveness, or you can embrace God’s ways and watch His redemption unfold. That choice is ultimately yours and yours alone—yet it has massive ramifications for your ability to walk out God’s purpose for your life.
No matter what has happened to you, know this: absolutely no man, woman, child, or devil can ever get you out of the will of God. No one, that is, except for you. The way you respond when you are mistreated has the potential to knock you off course—but it can also position you to step into your God-given destiny! If you choose to hold on to bitterness and offense, you will end up carrying burdens you were never meant to bear, and it will become a hindrance to you as you pursue God’s call on your life.
Joseph refused to return evil for evil. Rather, by God’s grace, he extended good toward those who had hated him and treated him wrongly. He embraced God’s ways (Matthew 5:44) above his own. In turn, God used all of the wrongs committed against him to position him for his purpose.
What about you? Ask God to search your own heart—are you carrying offense and holding people’s grievances against them? Are you allowing your present to be defined by the wrongs of the past? Or are you releasing those who have hurt you, extending forgiveness, and trusting God to take what was meant for evil and rework it for good?
The truth is, until you learn to forgive those who have hurt you and treated you wrongly, you will always be a prisoner of your pain and your past. But forgiveness will lift a weight off your shoulders that you were never meant to carry. Lewis Smedes put it so well: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Wherever you find yourself, don’t allow the burden of past hurts to weigh you down any longer. It’s not worth it to let wounds and offenses derail you from God’s purpose for your life. You may not have had any choice in what happened to you—Joseph certainly didn’t—but you have the freedom to respond with Christ-likeness, forgiving freely as you’ve been freely forgiven by God. You have the freedom to stop holding the wrongs of others against them and instead, entrust them to God, who judges justly. When you lay down the offenses you were never meant to carry, you’ll find yourself back on course, free to run unhindered toward God’s dream for your life.