Ever hear the story of Joseph from the Bible? The story that Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat in loosely based on? It’s a great story and one I tend to breeze over in the Bible since I have heard it over and over again. For those of you who don’t know it or want to read a refresher, in summary, Joseph grew up in a family with his 11 brothers and dad Jacob, who favored him. His brothers got jealous of that and grew to hate him, even more so when Joseph started sharing revelations from his dreams that his brothers would one day bow down to him. They planned to kill him, but instead sold him to a caravan going to Egypt and told their dad Jacob that Joseph was dead. Still with me? So Joseph ended up being sold as a slave to an officer in the army, got accused of something false and was thrown in prison where he remarkably continued to have a positive influence on God’s kingdom. Finally, 13 years after he was sold as a slave, he became recognized by the King due to his God-given gift to interpret dreams and was made a ruler in Egypt.
Okay, so keep all of that in mind because it’s important. Joseph’s life kind of sucked! I mean, imagine growing up with tons of brothers who hate you. I am sure that the ridiculing was worse than just a few wet willy’s or noogies. I mean, they were so mad they plotted to kill him, so we know that house must have been a little (or a lot) hostile. So then Joseph gets sold as a slave, which, hello, would be awful. Imagine having freedom and then suddenly being ripped from your home and forced to be a slave for someone who’s wife keeps putting you in a very difficult position. Then you get accused of something false and thrown in prision. Again, suckfest.
So I am sitting here reading all this today and cringing at the thought of this tough life Joseph was living. I mean, I am CERTAIN that he was wondering “Why God???” Why have you put me in this place? Why have you forced me into this situation that is lonely and painful and confusing? Why why why? But I am so amazed at how Joseph continued to trust God in these desolate moments. I am sure he had to fight off hopelessness daily. Life was not how he planned it to be.
Fast forward a bit. Joseph is around 39 or 40 when he is moved into this new place of power. So, I continue reading when I come to these verses*:
During this time, before the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath … Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”
Two things stand out. One, the fact that God can bless us in such an unexpected way that He can make us forget all of our troubles, all of the years that we have felt trapped to a struggle or hardship, all of the tears that we have cried. God is capable and able to help us let go of the hurts that held onto our hearts for so long. Two, God can make us fruitful in the places that hurt us the most. This verse doesn’t say “God can keep us alive by a thin strand in the land of sorrow.” or “God has made me survive in the land of my grief.” … it says FRUITFUL.
Definition of fruitful: producing an abundance of growth, yielding fruit and results
We have the ability to have an abundance of growth right here, right here in the places we struggle most, the places that cause us the most grief, that make us wonder “why?”.
What is it for you? Is it struggling with your job, feeling like you just will never get a foot ahead or succeed? Is it struggling in your marriage, feeling like you are just on autopilot and missing the intimacy you once had? Is it struggling with your weight or food choices, always wondering when you will beat the addictive cycle and become a healthier you? Is it struggling being single, feeling lonely when all of your friends marry and have their other half? Is it carrying the burden of infertility, feeling so left out in a world full of families and aching for one of your own? Or perhaps you’re a mom who is feeling lost in the monotony of a toddler life – cleaning cheerios off the floor and saying “no” or “not now” all day. What is causing you to feel a little lost right now, your land of your affliction?
There is good news to all of this. God is with us and God will come in and save the day. He always does. It doesn’t always look the way we think it would or should look, but He is so faithful in blessing us and providing for us when we continue to stay faithful to Him. And it IS possible to produce fruit right where you are – midst divorce, midst family turmoil, midst another failed IVF cycle and midst seasons of lost purpose.
We can find purpose in our “chains” when we look for ways for God to use us, right where we are. Let’s continue to have confidence that He will work our tough times out for His good. I know the stretching is hard, I’m certain 13 years as a slave and in prison wasn’t exactly how Joseph pictured his life, but in the end, there was so much good that came from his story. Ours too – there is good to come. Keep the faith friends.
*Genesis 41:50-52 (NLT)