I felt my stomach lurch and my legs give way as I listened to the torrent of accusations being hurled at me over the phone. My eyes blinded by tears, I stumbled through the streets of London to the safety of home. Only it wasn’t safe because the bottom had just dropped out of my world. People I loved dearly had just cut me out of their lives for something I hadn’t even done.
I got straight into the car, oblivious of the time and drove and drove until I reached where they lived. Desperate to repair the relationship, I was horrified to find on my entrance, all the photos of us removed, every trace of our existence wiped from what had been a place full of happy memories.
I tried to repair what was broken, but it was very difficult to untangle what was a complicated mess of misunderstanding. As they flew out of the country a few days later, I knew it would be weeks before I could attempt another repair job. And why bother? They were in the wrong, surely it would be less painful to just cut them out of my life, like they had done to me.
Sat in church two days later, God made his will very clear to me. Humanly speaking, reconciliation is impossible when someone has wronged you. But God works supernaturally. The preacher took us to Genesis 41 where he opened up to me Joseph’s background in a whole new way. Abused by his family, sold into slavery by his brothers, left to rot in prison by his master after being falsely accused of wrongdoing, Joseph had every reason to cut people – even God – out of his life. Yet as God gave him a wife and a son, in v 51 it said ’Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh (which sounds like the Hebrew for forget) and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”’
Humanly speaking he could never have forgotten all that hurt, but supernaturally it is possible. A refrain the preacher kept repeating. A lifeline that I clung to through the days and weeks ahead.
Overwhelmed with a flood of tears I couldn’t hold back, I knew in that service that God was not just calling me to forgive, but to forget. To make it as though the accusations, cutting me out of the family, had never happened.
It is important to note that in the context of Joseph’s life it becomes clear that Joseph ‘forgetting’ is far from meaning that what happened did not matter or that justice was not done. God made sure that justice was absolutely done and none of Joseph’s suffering was in vain. What it did mean, was Joseph entrusting that pain and suffering to God, trusting that God, not Joseph, would be the one to meter out the appropriate punishment and bring about the necessary justification – in his perfect, eternal timing.
Humanly speaking I could not forgive. I replayed the soundtrack over and over. Everything I seemed to see, hear and touch, reminded me of the hurt done to me. But every time the soundtrack started, I turned to God and asked him to ‘make me forget all my trouble.’
It wasn’t so much a choice as a resolve, a determination to fight the devil who wanted me to cut them out.
The path was not easy, but through a carefully planned and executed diary of visits, I prayerfully asked God to help me work to restore what was broken. It wasn’t heartfelt, it was painful and mechanical. It felt a bit like surgery – each stroke carefully manoeuvred to coldly and calculatedly walk what I felt was the right path. The supernatural path that followed Jesus. A path that ultimately would be healing but at every step just felt like a fresh wound.
Many people prayed, and there came a real turning point when they admitted what they had done. They accepted they were wrong and asked me to forgive them.
I was able to explain that God had told me that I was to make it as if it had never happened. To forget. I talked about how God had spoken to me through the story of Joseph and empowered me through the forgiveness he had lavished upon me through his son. Against the backdrop of darkness, the gospel shone more brightly and personally into their lives than it had ever done before.
Over the months that followed it was very hard to forget. I was desperate to pick at the scabs, to slander them and vindicate myself. But I knew that was not how Jesus had acted. He had forgiven me, and forgotten all the trouble I had caused him. Whenever I struggled, I came back to that prayer – that God would make me forget all my trouble.
Humanly speaking forgiveness is impossible. But God works supernaturally. He can forgive us all the trouble we have caused him. And that sets us free to decide, resolve, choose to allow him to make us forget. But it’s never easy and may involve more, not less pain.
Joseph had Manasseh many years after all of his trouble. I comforted myself with this fact. That forgiveness is a long, slow, deep work. But it is a supernatural work that God is doing to set us free from what has troubled us in the past.
I cannot promise that you will receive the apology you crave. I cannot promise that you will ever be reconciled. But I know that supernaturally God was able to cause Joseph to say ‘God has made me forget all my trouble.’ It may take years, but God invites you to start on that journey in the full assurance that he can forget all the trouble we ever caused him. Humanly speaking that was not possible. But with God all things are possible.