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Overcoming: Making Peace with Your Past

By Tim Najpaver

 Genesis 45:1-13

In the early 1970s, the Carpenters dominated on the pop music charts. With top ten songs like We've Only Just Begun, Rainy Days and Mondays, Top of the World, and their mega-hit Close to You, Karen and her brother Richard produced an amazing fourteen Gold records. In the process they also won an Oscar and three Grammy awards. Blessed with a voice as pretty as sunshine, Karen Carpenter could have dominated the music scene for years to come.

Yet behind the bright lights of popularity, a dark enemy loomed. Karen Carpenter was starving herself to death because of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Later she claimed her anorexia began after a music reviewer called her "Richard's chubby little sister." Little did the reviewer know that from the time she was a young girl, Karen battled self-esteem and weight problems. Though she became a music superstar, Karen could not shake her adolescent and childhood insecurities. The coroner's report stated that Karen died of a heart attack brought on by anorexia, but Karen Carpenter died, in part, because she was unable to make peace with her past.1

In the 1980s, Rosanne Barr became a household name. The star of a hit television sitcom, she also regularly appeared on the covers of the tabloids because of her outrageous antics. A television movie chronicled her life and rise to stardom. The movie portrayed a different side of Rosanne. Rather than the uncouth, rough comedian we are so familiar with, America came to know a woman trying to come to grips with her childhood memories of sexual abuse. Could it be that Rosanne's crude public outbursts are in part the result of great pain she carries from her past?

Like Karen and Rosanne, we all have a past -- a past which we can neither escape nor change. A past filled with memories so powerful that their recall often brings pain to the present. Our stomach knots up. Feelings of inferiority arise. Long forgotten fears once again grab a choke hold on our life. The entire field of psychology is based on the premise that the past affects our present life. If true, it is essential that we learn how to make peace with our past.

Joseph, son of Jacob, overcame a painful past. He was raised in what we would call a "dysfunctional family." Sibling rivalry filled Jacob's household. Favoritism abounded. Hatred was a regular dish served on the family menu. One day, Joseph's brothers caught him, threw him into a pit, and discussed killing him. One brother intervened and convinced the rest instead to sell Joseph as a slave to traders headed toward Egypt.

In Egypt, Joseph became the property of a man named Potiphar. Potiphar's wife had eyes for Joseph, though, and made continual sexual advances toward him. Frustrated by Joseph's refusal, she falsely charged him with attempted rape and he was imprisoned.

While imprisoned, Joseph made friends with a baker and a cupbearer. Each promised to pull their political strings and secure Joseph's release, if and when they were freed. In time, the baker was hanged. The cupbearer was freed, but suffered a case of amnesia when it came to Joseph. For two more years, Joseph's mailing address was an Egyptian prison.

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