Sometimes we bury things. Deep in the realms of the past. Hidden from everyday remembering. I’m not thinking of things that have happened to us—rather things we have done. Things we regret, things that haunt us when our mind betrays us and stirs up dormant memories.
I was speaking recently about such a group of men. Twenty years had passed since the event. They thought they had got away with it. They had covered their tracks; they had maintained their story.
But God knew. And slowly He began to uncover the buried past. It was a reference here, and comment there. At one level it seemed innocuous enough, but at another level God was poking at their consciences. They thought they had got away with it, He was determined to bring it to light.
Then their very circumstances forced them into a trip which retraced the footsteps of their victim—their young brother. They found themselves arrested under suspicion of another crime, accused of something they weren’t guilty of. They found themselves staring at an almost mirror image of their original crime. Would they give up another brother? God was tightening the screw—dredging up long buried memories.
They started whispering amongst each other, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we wouldn’t listen…”
Then even as they are heading home, what was meant as a kindness scorches their freshly awakened conscience. Money returned, left in their luggage, evokes the memory of blood-money for their brother—how they had hidden it away from prying eyes. Even kindness was haunting them.
I was preaching from the story of Joseph in Genesis 42. It might be ancient history, but we were drawing lessons for today—for God still works in similar ways. He often pokes at our consciences, or uses circumstances and trials to bring our guilt before our own eyes. Or sometimes He even uses the unsuspecting kindness of others to nudge us towards admission.
Why does he do this? Because in order to find forgiveness we need to admit our guilt. Allowing us to think we got away with it is no kindness. So sometimes God engages in a severe mercy—he brings uncomfortable truths back into the light—so that we can find cleansing and redemption.
The reality for these brothers was that, as they confessed their sin, they found forgiveness and found life. They would escape famine because, in admitting their sin and seeking reconciliation, they would find that the one they had sinned against was the one who would give them food to keep them alive.
Does God disturb your conscience? It is a kindness; don’t ignore it. Let it push you to Him: “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation… your sins and lawless acts, I will remember no more” (2 Cor 7:10, Hebrews 10:17)