During the holidays our family enjoys a treat called “White Trash.” It sounds horrible but it’s the most addictive, wonderful snack. It’s called “White Trash” because you smother white chocolate over whatever you have leftover in your pantry before it hits the trash. What makes it so good is the combination of sweet and salty. These two combinations are very distinct from each other, but when they come together, they are beautiful. In the story of Joseph, we find a strange combination that results in beauty. The words fruitful and affliction.
Our church has been going through the book of Genesis and we are studying the account of Joseph. Joseph’s life is a story of God’s hand of providence and His promises being unfolded that He made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 where God says that He will make Abraham a great nation, and bless him and make him a great name. God was working through Joseph to preserve His people, the nation of Israel.
In chapter 41, we start to see what God was up to in the midst of Joseph’s life. We might think this is a “rags to riches” story and in some cases, it is. But the riches are not what we might think. Some of the riches that Joseph received at the end of his story are indeed earthly treasures and a high status but most importantly, he received the riches that come from knowing Christ. The unsearchable riches that belong to those who love the Lord. Some of those riches can come in the form of affliction.
After Joseph is released from prison and made second- in- command to Pharaoh, the Lord gives him a wife and two sons. We read these names in Genesis 41:51-52. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh and a second son, Ephraim. Both names have significant meaning and there is a bigger picture behind each name.
I want to focus on the meaning of Ephraim’s name. Moses records that his name means “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” In the midst of our affliction, just like Joseph, we can’t see the end result. But in the process, we can cling to the promises of God that He is up to something good while we wait. When the fog finally lifts, we can look back and see that it was a difficult, but fruitful time for us.
The year 2005 was a fog for me. I had 3 children under the age of 5 and one of those children required extra care, lots of doctors appointments and a major surgery. In August of that year, I spend 2 ½ weeks at the local children’s hospital with our newborn daughter as she recovered from open heart surgery. I say it was a fog because it was a very busy and difficult season. I don’t remember much but what I do remember is how the Lord used this particular hardship in my life and in my husbands life to come to a deeper understanding of His character and the local church. It was a hard time, but it was a fruitful time. Having to sit in a hospital room for that period of time drove me to prayer, the Word and the people of God.
I think a lot of us believe that in times of affliction our fruitfulness depends on our circumstances but that is far from the truth. James tells us that the testing of our faith produces something. It produces steadfastness so that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. How about you? In the midst of your affliction are you experiencing fruitfulness? Can you say like the Psalmist in Psalm 119:17 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
May we continue to take our eyes off our circumstances and look not to the things that are seen, but what are unseen and hold fast to the promise that these light, momentary afflictions are preparing each one of us for an eternal weight of glory beyond anything that we can imagine. These promises will encourage and strengthen our inner man so that we can be fruitful in the land of our affliction.