Conntecting the Dots

Three Ways to Deal with a Painful Past

Joseph is one of my favorite biblical characters. Mistreated by his family, falsely accused by his boss, and thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, this guy responds with grace and humility. He extends forgiveness to those who hurt him. Eventually he’s appointed to second in command for the entire land of Egypt.

Some people might have used that position of authority as a platform to seek revenge. But not Joseph. We see his attitude in the names he chooses for his sons (Genesis 1:50-52).

Joseph names his first son Manasseh. “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family,” he says. It’s as though he declares, “I’m not going to get stuck in the muck of what’s happened. New beginnings lie ahead, and that’s where I’m focused.”

Then he names his second son Ephraim: “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.” He acknowledges that the past has been painful, but he also sees that God has accomplished a good work in the midst of it. He chooses not to fixate on the hurtful stuff but on the fruit that’s come about as a result of it.

Joseph sets a good example for us. Every one of us has some sort of pain in our past (or our present). Rather then allowing it to rule us, let’s do what he did:

  • Acknowledge God’s sovereignty in our lives.
  • Refuse to dwell on that painful past.
  • Identify the positive things that result from our hurtful experiences.

When we do these things, God will do a good work in us. What might that look like in real life?

  • He develops maturity in our character. He uses pain to refine us and remove the dross of selfishness and self-reliance.
  • He grows our understanding of who He is as our circumstances force us to rely on Him for help and wisdom and strength.
  • He grows our compassion for others who are still dwelling in their own land of grief. Personal pain develops an empathetic heart, and we become better at caring for others in need.

Have you seen this prove true in your own life? If so, how? If not, why not?

2 Responses to “Three Ways to Deal with a Painful Past”

  1. Caroline Bridges

    Forgetting my painful past has not/is not easy. when my husband left over 8 years ago I realised how lonely life can be however I also realised that I was even more lonely in the relationship. Plus I realised that if I ‘forgot’ too quickly I could easily I could just go back as abused women are want to do – like a dog returning to its own vomit. For this reason I ‘made’ my self remember how bad it was often going over the bad times so that I would not be tempted to jump right back in and end up in a bad cycle again. I even kept a nasty note he wrote me so that I would not be tempted to do this. Now I am realizing that I need to think more on positive things to enable me to move on…prayer for this would be great- thanks
    your friend
    Caroline CarrieX
    ps One day soon I’m going to write about my experiences.

    • Grace

      Thanks for sharing from your experience, Carrie. A painful past is never easy to forget. I don’t know if we can ever really forget, but we can acknowledge what’s happened and how it’s affected us, deal with what must be dealt with appropriately, and then choose not to dwell on the past so we can move forward in hope. Sounds like you’ve made that decision to move on. Blessings on you as you go.


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