You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.
Joseph to his Brothers (Genesis 50:20; NKJV)
This is another of those verses that I use as the foundation of my therapy practice. It helps to have a working model in my head. I don’t just sit there and say, “A-ah. You poor thing.” Sometimes I am speechless at the stories I hear. Evil has a way of sucker punching you. At the time it seems overwhelming and you wonder how you’ll ever get out, if you’ll even ever get out, how you will ever survive, let alone recover and not be a basket case, and then, whatdayaknow? You HAVE healed and you DID learn and you DID grow and you ARE different…or NOT?
Yeah, that’s the kicker. That’s where a guy like me comes in or your minister or your friend from your Bible study or that guy at work or your sister. How do you take a bad thing and make it good? I don’t mean like the Iowa Supreme Court who says that evil doesn’t exist and instead we’re just going to call evil good. No, we still call evil evil and it hurts like the devil, but we’re figuring out the road to healing and the path to wholeness and we learn to conquer evil and put it in a box and not listen to it’s voice anymore.
If evil’s been done to you (ah, that would be all of us), then evil has a voice in your head. Here’s a few scenarios:
-your husband has an affair and you deal with it by yelling and cursing at him and making threats to leave and maybe you kick him out or you refuse to have sex with him or you scowl at him and remind him at every opportunity and even when it isn’t an opportunity but you are struggling with your hurt feelings and he needs to know…
-Your wife greets you when you come home with a frown of disgust and you’ve worked hard all day and you are sacrificing for the family and all you get is this crap and so you shut down and withdraw and either don’t come home and stay at work or go drinking with the buddies or work on your race car in the shop or find excuses to be on the computer all the time because why be nice to her when she treats you like that?
-You had an affair, which you are entirely embarrassed about and repentant of, but your wife treats you as if you are Hitler and the biggest piece of do-do in the entire world and you’ve tried to make amends but she pushes you away and says mean things and makes threats to leave so you get mean and yell back and say mean things, too, because you really are trying and she’s not giving you any credit…
-Your husband never talks to you and he works all the time and when he is home he’s into himself and he just does his own thing and there’s no place for you in his life so you make sure he knows how miserable he’s made you and you remind him frequently of his shortcomings because he’s hurt you and he needs to know and maybe if he knew how bad you are hurting he’d finally get it and treat you nice so you remind him in no uncertain terms of his selfish disregard for you and then on top of that you purposely decide not to be sexual with him or to not do his laundry or to not come home yourself or to shop till you drop and run up his credit cards just to spite him…
This is evil telling you that if your spouse is evil to you, you need to be evil back. That’s the ticket. That’ll get your point across that you cannot be trifled with!! But be careful. If you are evil to your spouse because she was evil to you and she’s following your lead, then she’ll be tempted to listen to evil and decide evil is right and that she should be evil to you and now you’ll have to be evil back. And on and on we go.
But what if you returned good for evil? Remember the quote from Joseph above? His brothers sold him into slavery, after seriously considering killing him. Through a maze of events Joseph became the second in command in Egypt and was used by God to prepare Egypt and the whole region for a seven-year famine. Nearly starving, his brothers came seeking grain and bowed at his feet, not knowing he was their brother. He could have had them legally slain on the spot. But he blessed them instead and gave them many undeserved things and showed them many acts of kindness. And when their father, Jacob, died, they seriously feared his revenge and came seeking forgiveness. This is when he says the quote above.
God is in the business of turning evil into good. What if you returned good for evil? What if instead of scoffing at your husband you smiled and asked what’s up and you were genuinely interested? What if instead of withdrawing from your wife, you called her up? What if you flirted with your husband instead of scoffed? What then?
The cycle of evil would end! It’s would be pretty hard for your husband to be evil to you if you are being nice to him. It’s sure possible, and believe me, it happens, but it’s hard. It puts the responsibility of the evil on the other person, though! If you are mean to me and I’m nice to you and you are still mean to me and I’m still nice to you and you are still mean to me, then you can’t blame me for the fact that you are mean to me. You are just mean to me because you are mean to me. I’m off the hook. Plus, I get the benefit of not being a jerk like YOU! I get the reward of doing the RIGHT THING! I can feel good about myself for not stooping to your level, for not listening to evil, for stopping the cycle of evil because sooner or later you’ll get it or go crazy and, frankly, life’s too short for you to talk me into being mean to you.
This is not being a pushover. This is stopping the cycle of evil. This is planting seeds of love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, goodness, tenderness, and graciousness and then we get healing and change and growth and learning from our mistakes and being brand new people. I’m all for that.