Joseph’s story brings to the surface some tough questions: Does choosing to forgive condone injustice? Are some sins unforgivable? As Joseph languishes in prison, is he giving up on justice if he forgives his brothers and Potiphar’s wife? These are tough questions. The prison years in Joseph’s life are critical because it is these times of waiting and darkness where we make secret choices of the heart and mind that shape how we act and speak later.
It’s important to note that Joseph acknowledged he had been mistreated and asked for help during his waiting years. Though ultimately Joseph forgave the brothers who kidnapped and sold him, he never says that what they did was okay. This distinction is of great importance.
Forgiving someone doesn’t excuse or minimize the pain that the person has caused, and often consequences remain for those who have sinned against us. It is possible to forgive others and still hold them accountable for their behavior. We can forgive others while speaking up about their actions and asking for help in seeking justice on our behalf.
I sometimes find in Christian circles that speaking up about wrongs done to us and asking for justice is equated with a lack of forgiveness. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. We can speak up and ask for help in righting the wrongs committed against us while simultaneously working through the stages of forgiveness. Whatever hurtful situation you are experiencing, look around you in your time of waiting to see if there is someone you can share your burden with, and then ask this person for help. Whether you need compassion or a specific action to be taken on your behalf, follow God’s Spirit in taking steps to ask for it.