And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.
How many years had passed, and yet that fateful day so long ago is the first thing that comes to mind for Joseph’s brothers when they face this test of their own. Their sinful treatment of Joseph comes back to haunt them. All those years they’d gotten away with their secret, thinking Joseph was gone. But in a way, they hadn’t gotten very far from it at all, as it lingered there in the back of their minds. They knew what they’d done was wrong, and so when this trouble comes upon them, they believe it is payback for their treatment of Joseph when they’d left him to die.
Joseph’s brothers are the definition of a guilty conscience. It’s that one thing that comes to mind over and over because it was never dealt with properly. They’d lied to themselves and lied to others, trying to push it away, but it resurfaces. They live in fear of the consequences because they could just never admit that they’d messed up. Because it wasn’t only Joseph that they’d sinned against, but also their father, Jacob, and, most of all, God.
Maybe we’ve experienced something similar in our lives where we did something we shouldn’t have and then could just never bring ourselves to do the right thing. Maybe it’s something we’ve carried with us for a long time. Maybe we thought if we could just keep it a secret and no one ever found out, we’d be okay. But those kinds of things often have a way of coming back to haunt us until we deal with them properly. And even if no one ever does find out, the damage is done internally in our own hearts and minds.
Guilt is a heavy weight to carry. It taints a lot of other things in our lives. It produces a turmoil within us. But we don’t have to collapse under the weight of it. We can be set free. We can find peace in confession and restoration. Simply admitting it is often the hardest thing to do, but how freeing it is to do so. And confessing to God and seeking forgiveness from the one we have wronged are important steps that release us from that burden. So whatever it is that has weighed heavy on our conscience, may we be willing to release it to the Lord and receive His forgiveness and set ourselves free from the power of guilt.