THE TESTING OF CHARACTER

Scripture Reading: Genesis 43:15-34

“And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at each other in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.” (Genesis 43:33,34)

As we have seen, God was using Joseph as a primary agent in the lives of his brothers. God was behind all that Joseph was doing. Joseph remembered the jealousy that his brothers had for him. They were jealous because their father loved Joseph more than all his sons (37:3,4). They were also jealous of Joseph after he told them the dreams he had about being superior over them (37:5-10).

Joseph used this occasion to test their character. Had anything changed? Could they be trusted? Were they still filled with jealousy? The test came during the feast when Benjamin was given five times as much as the other brothers were given. The brothers were seated according to their birth order. They noticed this and were astonished. Benjamin was Joseph’s youngest brother. Would the older brothers be jealous of him as they had been of Joseph? Would they resent the favorable treatment shown to Benjamin?

The brothers passed the test. There was no sign of jealousy from them — “And they drank and were merry with him.” Joseph must have been relieved. However, there was still one more test that was necessary for the brothers in Joseph’s mind. We will see that in our next devotion.

There are two notable attributes of God found in this account. First, God is the provider — “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you” (v. 23). Let’s never forget who our provider truly is — “Every good and perfect gift is from above; coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). All the good gifts we receive come from our heavenly Father who loves us and who has promised to provide all we need.

Second, God is gracious. When Joseph saw Benjamin, he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son” (v. 29). Joseph had experienced the grace of God first hand. Thus he acted graciously toward his brothers. That is the way grace operates. When we have been impacted by God’s grace, we will extend grace to others.

Lord God, You are my provider. I know that every good and perfect gift I have ever received has come from Your generous hand. And I thank You for the grace that You have shown me. You have not dealt with me according to my sins and failures. You have given me what I do not deserve. You have freely given me eternal life through Your Son Jesus. Enable me to extend grace to those around me. Let me live out the gospel so that You will receive the glory that is rightly Yours.

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THE GOSPEL IN ACTION

Scripture Reading: Genesis 43:15-34

“And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, ‘It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” (Genesis 43:18)

We come back to God’s dealings with Joseph’s brothers. God was at work in the lives of these men. They would become the Old Testament foundation blocks of Christ’s Church. The great covenant promises of God to Abraham would be passed on to them and from them would come the Old Testament Church.

As we have seen, Joseph’s brothers were godless, immoral men. Yet God transformed their lives. God had awakened their consciences. They finally came to the place where they admitted their guilt — “Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us'” (42:21). Their consciences were awakened. They admitted their guilt, but they still had a way to go. God was using Joseph as His primary agent in the lives of these men.

When the brothers were brought to Joseph’s house, they were filled with fear (v. 18). What would Joseph do to them? What had he done with Simeon? What would he do with Benjamin? God used the power of fear in the lives of the brothers. But He also used the power of love.

Joseph showered his brothers with expression of his love for them. Joseph’s steward reassured the brothers about their money. The steward said, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money” (v. 23). Then Simeon was returned to them unharmed.

Upon their return, the brothers were treated like friends, not like spies (v. 24). When Joseph arrived he spoke kindly to them (vs. 26-30). Then he had a feast prepared for his brothers (vs. 31-34).

The older brothers had greatly sinned against Joseph in the past; but now Joseph loved them and treated them graciously. Joseph’s gracious treatment of his brothers was the result of God’s grace upon his life. He was able to love his brothers in spite of what they had done to him.

Here is a beautiful picture of the gospel at work. God has treated us graciously even when we were alienated from Him — “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9,10). We are similar to Joseph’s brothers in many ways. We have hurt others, acted selfishly and irresponsibly, and dishonored God. When we admit our unworthiness, confess our sins and repent of them, and turn to Jesus, we will be reconciled to God. Then we will be able to love and forgive those who have sinned against us. This is the gospel at work!

Lord God, I know that I have failed You miserably at times. I have sinned against You and other people. I am unworthy of Your goodness and am so grateful for Your grace. Your Son made it possible for me to be reconciled to You. And He makes it possible for me to love and forgive those who have done me wrong.

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REGAINING GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 42:29-43:16

“Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:13,14)

The perspective from which we view circumstances will greatly affect how we handle difficult situations that come along in life. Some people always look for the best, even in bad situations; others always see the worst. As believers we have to learn how to view life from God’s perspective. Sometimes this is very hard to do. Jacob, Joseph’s father, is an example of a man who had to change his perspective.

When Joseph’s brothers returned from Egypt, they gave an honest report to their father (42:24). They told Jacob that the Prime Minister of Egypt had spoken harshly with them and accused them of being spies. They also told their father that he made them leave Simeon in Egypt until they returned with their youngest brother Benjamin.

After Jacob heard the report, his heart was heavy and he began to feel sorry for himself — “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this is against me” (42:36). Jacob had forgotten God and his promises. He reverted to his old ways and lost God’s perspective.

A notable change had taken place in Jacob’s life. Years ago Jacob’s name had been changed to Israel. Jacob means “deceiver.” Israel means “one who has been conquered by God.” At this point in the story (chapter 43), Jacob’s name was changed to his new name Israel. Two significant actions of Israel are noted. First, he rightly appealed to his sovereign God — “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin” (43:13.14a). Second, he resolved to trust God for his children — “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (43:14b).

There may have been times in our lives when we feel that everything is against us. When we focus on the difficult situations in our lives, we can easily lose the right perspective, and become filled with despair. At these times we must remember that we have a God who is greater than our circumstances — God Almighty — and one who promises to be with us and to carry us through every circumstance we face. We must look up to Him through and beyond our circumstances. As our gaze is fixed upon Christ, we shall see His goodness and mercy in spite of our circumstances. Then we can find peace for we know that He causes all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

God Almighty, You are my sovereign Lord who is in control of all things. Forgive me when I lose Your perspective and began to feel sorry for myself. Forgive me when I do not trust You through the difficulties I face. Enable me to keep my eyes on Jesus, for I know that He is with me and will carry me through the troubles I face. Grant me grace to gain Your perspective when I face difficult situations.

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EXPERIENCING GOD’S GRACE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 42:26-35

“And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. He said to his brothers, ‘My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!’ At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?'” (Genesis 42:27,28)

Joseph gave orders to fill his brothers sacks with grain, to replace the money they had paid for the grain, and to give them provisions for their journey (v. 26). The brothers did not know that the money had been returned to them until one of the brothers opened his sack to feed his donkey. He saw the money and was filled with fear. The other brothers trembled as well. They turned to one another and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

This is the first time in the entire story of the lives of Joseph’s brothers that they mentioned God’s name. Joseph spoke of God often, but not his brothers. Now, however, as God tightened His hand around them, they cried out in anguish — “What is this that God has done to us?”

For the first time the brothers were acknowledging that God is controlling a specific circumstance of their lives. I believe they were saying,”God has done this! He does not forget our sin. He saw it and now God is intervening powerfully and directly in our lives.” The brothers were coming to grips with the true God at last. They were encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This verse in Romans comes to my mind as I consider these things — “Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). All of God’s interventions into the lives of Joseph’s brothers were intended to bring them to repentance. These brothers were totally unworthy, but God chose them to be the foundation blocks of His Church. They would become the twelve tribes of Israel. The promised Messiah would come from the line of one of these brothers, Judah. Through God’s kindness and patience, these men came to grips with the true God and became conscious of their sin and were troubled by it. The kindness of God eventually led to their repentance. The brothers experienced the amazing grace of God at work in their lives.

This is how God works. He pours out His kindness and is patient with us until we come to repentance. Be sensitive to God’s work in your life. He loves you and is kind to you. He wants us to come to repentance.

Lord God, You are a gracious, patient, and kind God. You do not deal with me according to my sins. You have poured out Your grace upon me and shown me Your kindness and love. Thank You for Your work in my life that leads me to repent of my sins and embrace my Savior Jesus.

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THE AWAKENING OF CONSCIENCE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 42:1-25

“Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.'” (Genesis 42:21)

We come to a part of Genesis that shows God’s dealings with Joseph’s brothers. Joseph’s older brothers in many ways were godless men. They lacked character, did immoral things, and had done a horrible thing to Joseph when they planned to kill him but instead sold him into slavery. But now God is going to work on them. At times, the hand of God can be heavy. Sometimes it takes that to awaken our consciences and to lead us to repentance.

Joseph put his brothers to the test. When the brothers arrived in Egypt, they did not recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized them. When they asked for grain, Joseph accused them of being spies. He ordered that Simeon be bound until the others returned with their youngest brother, Benjamin. These circumstances led to the awakening of their consciences.

First, the brothers acknowledged their guilt — “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother.” They admitted their sin against Joseph. The situation in which the brothers found themselves intensified their guilt even more.

Second, the brothers memories were refreshed — “We saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen.” The details of their horrible sin came back to them. They remembered what they had done. Memory is an effective tool in God’s hands. It brings back awareness of unconfessed sins and it allows us to confess them and let them go.

Third, the brothers began to reason spiritually — “That is why this distress has come upon us.” They realized that there was a connection between their sin and the consequences they were experiencing. They faced up to the reality of their sin and guilt.

The Holy Spirit ultimately is the one who awakens our consciences. He will bring to memory sins that we have not dealt with. He allows us to face difficult circumstances to refresh our memories. He leads us to confession and repentance.

Joseph’s brothers experience harsh treatment at the hands of Joseph (vs. 6-16). They were placed in prison for three days (v. 17). God used physical imprisonment to give them time to ponder their situation. We are introduced to the brothers’ thoughts only after Joseph released them from three days in prison.

God desires for us to have clear consciences. He wants us to be honest about our sins and to turn to Him for forgiveness and cleansing. We must be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. He will awaken our consciences and lead us to repentance when we are open to Him.

O Spirit of God, thank You for the many times You have opened my heart and mind to Your presence and work in me. Thank You for awakening my conscience to sin and leading me to confession and repentance. Enable me to be sensitive to Your work in my life.

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JOSEPH’S TWO SONS

Scripture Reading: Genesis 41:50-52

“Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The name of the second he called Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.'” (Genesis 41:51,52)

This passage is a parenthesis toward the end of the chapter. It deals with the birth of Joseph’s two sons and it gives us further insight into the character of Joseph. Pharaoh had given Joseph an Egyptian wife whose name was Asenath. Before the famine came, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife. What is interesting and very important to note is the names Joseph gave his sons. We must remember how important names were in the Old Testament. Names were carefully chosen and they expressed a clear message about an individual and a family.

Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, which means “forgetting.” Joseph tells us why he gave this name to him — “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” Joseph did not mean that he literally had forgotten that he had a father and eleven brothers. In the next chapter we will see how he missed them and longed to see them again. Joseph meant that now God had given a new outlook. He was able to view things from his own home in Egypt rather than from that of his father’s in Israel. Joseph had a new life. He had his own wife and children. He had a new perspective, a new outlook.

Joseph also meant that he had been healed from his past hardships, the wounds he had experienced. He meant that God had healed his wounds which came as a result of past abuses and disappointments — the terrible way his brothers treated him and the unjust way he was treated by Potiphar after he arrived in Egypt. Being able to let go of the past is a great gift from God (Philippians 3:13,14). Some people can never move forward because they get so hung up in their past hurts and disappointments.

Joseph named his second son Ephraim, which means “doubly fruitful.” There must have been several times in Joseph’s life when he though he would never be fruitful. He had been a slave and a prisoner. However, Joseph became very fruitful and he always gave credit to God for making him fruitful. Years later Jacob, Joseph’s father, reflected on his son’s remarkable life and it was Joseph’s fruitfulness that stood out in his mind (Genesis 49:22-26).

Jesus calls us to bear much fruit. He said — “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We are to bear the fruit of godly character. As we abide in Christ, he provides the nourishment we need to make us fruitful. The key is to remain in a deep and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus, You are the vine and I am one of the branches that abides in you. I pray that You nourish me and enable me to bear much fruit. I know that I can do nothing apart from you.

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THE SOURCE OF GODLY CHARACTER

Scripture Reading: Genesis 41:37-57

“And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like him, in whom is the Spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.'” (Genesis 41:38,39)

Pharaoh noticed two important characteristics in Joseph’s life. First, Joseph was a man in whom is the Spirit of God. He was grounded in his faith and he was led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit gave Joseph many gifts and abilities, including the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph walked by the Spirit and yielded himself to the Spirit. Second, Joseph was discerning and wise. He had deep insight into matters and he had the wisdom to know what to do. This was evident by how Joseph handled the crisis of the impending famine.

The key to Joseph’s success in Egypt was his godly character. It was because of his character that power passed into Joseph’s hands. Joseph was upright, honest, straightforward, and true. He consistently acted with integrity and others knew that they could trust him.

The source of Joseph’s character was God. From the first to the last it was the grace and power of God that made Joseph what he was. During his times of adversity, Joseph looked to God for strength and wisdom. During these hard times Joseph learned the importance of submission. In the face of injustice and cruel wrong, he accepted his circumstances without complaining. In every difficult turn in his life, he was determined to make the best of whatever situation he was in. God used the trials of his life to mold and mature Joseph.

When he was at the height of his success, he continued to look to God for his strength and wisdom. In the chapters that follow, nothing bad is said of him. He is one of the few major characters in the Bible of whom this can be said.

Pharaoh gave Joseph the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah. Over the years various interpretations have been given for this name. Many scholars believe the name means “God speaks, He lives.” This name bears testimony to the character of Joseph.

Godly character is rooted in the deepest recesses of the heart. It is the product of the sanctifying work of God. God molds us, shapes us, and transforms us from the inside out. It was the Spirit of God who worked in Joseph’s heart to make him the godly man that he was.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Mold me, make me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. (Daniel Iverson)

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THE DIFFERENCE A DAY CAN MAKE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 41:1-57

“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.” (Genesis 41:14)

Two long years passed after Joseph asked the chief cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about his situation. Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him greatly. He could not find any one who could interpret his dreams. The chief cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. It must have been quite a scene when Joseph was brought out of prison and into the presence of the most powerful man on earth.

Pharaoh stated his problem to Joseph — “I had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (v. 15). Joseph immediately corrected Pharaoh — “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (v. 16). Joseph’s primary concern was God’s glory. After hearing Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph gave the interpretations of them to him” (vs. 25-36).

On that very day, Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be second in command over all of Egypt — “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards to the throne will I be greater than you” (v. 46).

There is not a character in all the Bible who experienced such sudden and radical reversals of fortune as Joseph did. One day he was his father’s favorite son who was destined to inherit his authority and wealth. The next day he was cast into a cistern and sold as a slave. In Egypt Joseph rose to a position of authority in Potiphar’s household, but in an instance he found himself in prison. One day he had hopes of deliverance through the chief cupbearer, but that day was followed by two full years of disappointment. Then one day he was brought out of prison and was standing before Pharaoh.

The emphasis of this chapter is on how quickly Joseph was released from prison, brought to Pharaoh, and established as Prime Minister over Egypt. Sudden reversals are difficult for most of us. When we experience a sudden reversal for the worse, we can become despondent. When we experience a sudden reversal for the better, we can easily forget about God and claim the credit for ourselves. Joseph, however, remained firm in his faith during the sudden reversals of his life. When he was in prison, he didn’t forget God. When he was before the most powerful man on earth, he said, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Joseph kept his eyes on God in adversity and he also kept his eyes on God when he was prosperous.

Many of us will experience sudden reversals during the course of our lives. Some will be for our betterment, while others may be for the worse. In both cases, we should be prepared to remain faithful to our God. He will lead us through them if we keep our eyes on Him.

Sovereign God, I know that You are in control of all things. When I have experienced sudden reversals in my life, I have seen Your hand at work. You have always been faithful to me. I know that I can trust You no matter what I have to face.

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PATIENCE THROUGH DISAPPOINTMENTS

Scripture Reading: Genesis 40:1-12

“Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention mention me to Pharaoh, and to get me out of this house…Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” (Genesis 40:14,23)

How many times have other people disappointed us? They tell us that they will do something but quickly forget the commitment they made. Some even hurt us deeply by failing to honor their words. Such was the case with the chief cupbearer and Joseph.

Two of Pharaoh’s lead servants, his chief cupbearer and chief baker, did something that offended Pharaoh. Pharaoh had the men placed in the prison where Joseph was. Both men had dreams while they were in prison. God enabled Joseph to interpret their dreams — “And Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me” (v. 8). As it turned out, the chief cupbearer’s dream had a good ending — “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer” (v. 13). However, the chief baker’s dream had the opposite outcome — “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head — from you! — and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you” (v. 19).

Joseph asked Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer to mention his circumstances to Pharaoh when he was restored to his position. When the cupbearer was released, Joseph must have been excited as he anticipated his release from prison. But it did not happen — “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (v. 23). Joseph remained in prison two more long years.

People will disappoint us. We cannot put our ultimate trust in human beings, for we all have feet of clay. We will disappoint one another. But when this happens, allow the disillusionment with men to lead us to the faithful of God — “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8). God is always faithful, even when we are not faithful to Him — “If we are faithless, He remains faithful — for He cannot deny Himself” (II Timothy 2:13).

Joseph remained in prison two more years. He had to wait patiently on the Lord. In God’s timing Joseph was released and he was later made Prime Minister over all of Egypt.

Expect others to disappoint us, but remember that God is always faithful. He will work in our lives on His timetable. We have to learn to wait patiently for Him — “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Lord, I have faced disappointment many times throughout my life because people failed to do what they told me they would do. I know that all people have feet of clay. Grant me grace to take refuge in You rather than to trust in man. Also, give me the grace to wait patiently for You to act. Let me be strong and let my heart take courage.

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WHY BOTHER?

Scripture Reading: Genesis 39:19-23

“And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:20,21)

Joseph’s imprisonment was terribly unjust. Joseph had successfully resisted a series of very strong temptations. He was determined to honor God. But he paid a price for doing what was right. I am sure Joseph struggled with this unjust treatment. He may have said to himself, “What’s the use? Why bother? I tried to do the right thing and look where it got me.”

However, Joseph remained faithful in spite of the injustices he experienced. Joseph had learned that God uses difficulties to mold character. Though thrown into prison unjustly, Joseph continued to focus on God and to orient his life around God’s character. He didn’t complain; he never compromised; and he never lost his faith in God. He knew the Lord was with him in the good times and in times of adversity. God prospered Joseph even in his adversity. Prison strengthened Joseph’s character and witness as we will see.

Reality is that Christians may experience times of injustice because they choose to do the right thing. However, remember that God has the final word. Justice will be done. We should not be surprised when we face times of adversity, but God promises to be with us through the trials of life — “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.”

Not only was the Lord with Joseph, but the Lord also prospered him — “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made him succeed” (v. 23).

The greatest act of injustice in all the history of the world was that which was done to Jesus Christ. He was sinless and perfect in every way. However, false charges were brought against Him and He was condemned to death. Yet God had a greater purpose in mind — the salvation of His people.

Why bother to do the right thing? Because Christ bothered. He paid the ultimate price for our sins. He suffered and died in our place. Why bother? Because Jesus loves us with a steadfast love. Because He loves us, we love Him in return. If we love Him we will want to obey Him (John 14:23). Why bother? Because you are not your own; you have been bought by a price (I Corinthians 6:19,20). God was with Joseph and He prospered him because Joseph did the right thing and remained faithful to the Lord.

Lord Jesus, when I consider what you have done for me, I am filled with love for you. Because I love You, I do not want to disappoint You. I want to honor you by doing the right thing in every situation. Give me the wisdom and the strength to remain faithful to you, even if I am mistreated by others. Enable me to make the right choices when I am faced with difficulties and tough situations.

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