“The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” Genesis 41:52 (NIV)
I’ve had some things happen in my life that I would just as soon forget. I bet you have, too. But as soon as I start to rip out the pages and shred the memories, God says to my soul, “Hold up. I’ve got a good purpose for that bad story.”
Joseph learned that lesson, too. We find his story in Genesis, chapters 37-50. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault and left in a prison to die.
Then God miraculously rescued him from prison and made him second in command to the Egyptian Pharaoh. By his 37th birthday, Joseph had two sons. One he named Manasseh, which means “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41:51b, NIV).
The second son he named Ephraim, which means, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52b).
Many years after his sons were born, Joseph learned that his father, Jacob (later named Israel), was ill. So he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and traveled for one last visit to see his father. When they arrived, Jacob said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them” (Genesis 48:9b, NIV).
Joseph brought his sons to his father’s bedside. He placed Ephraim on his right toward Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh, his firstborn, on his left toward Jacob’s right hand. But instead of giving the blessing to Joseph’s firstborn, Jacob reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger. Then he crossed his arms and put his left hand on Manasseh’s head.
Joseph tried to stop his father from giving the blessing to the second-born rather than the firstborn, but his father refused:
“I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations” (Genesis 48:19b, NIV). So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
What a beautiful picture. Yes, Joseph had a life of trouble and suffering at the hands of those who abused, neglected and betrayed him. But God didn’t want him to merely forget his suffering, as the name Manasseh implied. He wanted him to be fruitful in his suffering, as the name Ephraim implied.
It’s the same with you and me. God does not want us to simply forget the pain of the past. He wants us to be fruitful in the land of our suffering! To use it for good.
Years after I experienced secondary infertility and loss of a child, I read Song of Solomon 2:1. The bride said to the groom, “I am a rose of Sharon …” (NIV) Feeling prompted to look up my name, Sharon, in my Bible dictionary, I learned it was a fertile valley in the Holy Land. God didn’t want me to just forget my personal pain of infertility, but to be fertile in other ways … fruitful in the “land” of my suffering by helping others experiencing loss.
God doesn’t comfort us just to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-able: able to comfort those with the comfort we have received. (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV) So don’t rip out those painful stories and try to forget them — allow God to heal them and then use them. Someone needs to hear your story.
Dear Lord, I thank You that nothing is ever wasted in our life experiences. The world says, “Just forget about it” … when it comes to our past struggles. You say, “Just use it! Be fruitful!” Show me ways I can use what I have gone through to help other people. Lord, I pray You will make me fruitful in the land of my suffering. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)
Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (NIV)
Do you feel God is calling you to tell your story, but you’re afraid? You’ll enjoy Sharon Jaynes’ book, Enough: Silencing the Lies that Steal Your Confidence, and learn how to move forward with holy confidence. You’ve got a story to tell! Don’t let fear stop you!
Are you ready to begin making your dreams of becoming a writer, speaker or ministry leader a reality? Don’t miss this year’s She Speaks Conference, July 25-27. Over the course of two days, you’ll become equipped with practical tools to enhance your ability to communicate God’s Word. Registration is open. Click here to learn more and sign up!
Visit Sharon’s blog today, and click on the link to the free Enough coloring book journal.
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Have you simply tried to just forget about your past? It doesn’t work, does it? What have you gone through in your life that you could now use to help someone else?
Read Romans 8:28. What do you think that means in light of the hurts and pains in your past?
Join the conversation! Tell us what you think about how God might use the pain from your past to help someone in the present.
© 2019 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.