Sunday, May 26, 2019

Fruitfulness Through Suffering

In the 41st chapter of the book of Genesis, we read the following:
 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[e] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim[f] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
For any of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Joseph, let me just summarize it for you..
 Joseph was the second youngest son of Jacob, born to Rachel the wife he loved deeply. Joseph was special to Jacob and his brothers were jealous of their relationship. So, one day when Joseph went to where they were watching the sheep, they devised a plan to kill him. However, Judah, one of the brothers, interceded and suggested that they sell him to a caravan passing through on its way to Egypt. Once there he was sold to Potiphar, the king’s official in charge of the palace guard. Joseph advanced to the point that he was eventually made Potiphar’s assistant. However, he suffered some severe setbacks after this promotion resulting in time spent in jail. Eventually, he was acquitted and made governor over all of Egypt. (You should read the entire story in Genesis 37:31)  
It was shortly after this that Joseph married and he had two sons. He knew that his rise to power and restoration was because of the favor of God and so he named his firstborn son Manasseh which means, “he has made me forget all my troubles.” Later he named his second son Ephraim because God had made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. He recognized that God had been with him through everything, the loneliness, and fright in a strange land, being falsely accused of rape resulting in a prison sentence, the loneliness, and indignity he suffered in prison and then his restoration. Even though he had been stripped of his family and culture, God made him fruitful and he was able, with God’s wisdom, help Egypt, as well as its neighboring countries, survive a severe famine. Eventually, he was reunited with his family, including his aged father.  
As I relate this story I am reminded of other stories in the Bible, though about different characters and circumstances, that remind me that God can take the worst that life can do to an individual and bring her through them to live to be fruitful and bring glory to Him in ways we can’t imagine.

There are two widows, in particular, who come to mind. The first one is Tamar. (You can read her story in the blog, God’s Plan Will Prevail.) Tamar was defrauded by her first two husbands and was left a childless widow by both. She was cheated out of a third husband and left to be a childless widow for the rest of her life, but her heart yearned for a child to hold in her arms. Through some sordid circumstances, she became pregnant by her father-in-law and gave birth to twin boys. Tamar’s joy was complete as she looked into the faces of these two little boys, knowing that the shame of barrenness was forever removed from her life. The incredible part of her story is that she is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus through Perez, one of those twins.

 Now in most cultures of which I’m aware, legitimacy is very important to be in the lineage of royalty. Think of it, our Lord and Savior, the King of Kings, descended from an illicit relationship. This is a testament to the loving grace of Jesus and his willingness to identify with and rescue sinners like Tamar…and you and me. Doesn’t that thrill you? Doesn’t that encourage you?  God can take the greatest disappointments; the deepest pain, even the failures and sins in our lives, and turn them around for good.  

The second widow that comes to my mind as I reflect on Biblical characters who suffered greatly, yet were used by God, is Ruth. Read the blog, Open The Eyes of My Heart, to learn more of Ruth’s story. Suffice it to say that she was left a childless widow and made the choice to leave her country, her culture and her family to go back to her husband’s country with her mother-in-law to whom she was devoted. Her mother-in-law was also a widow and once they had returned to her home, they found themselves in desperate straits with little opportunity to better themselves. 

Ruth selflessly worked hard to garner enough food to keep some food on their table. As God would have it, Ruth was gleaning food from the fields of a wealthy man who fell in love with her, married her and their child, Obed, became the grandfather of King David who is also in the lineage of Jesus. A poor young widow who grew up in a heathen home and was not an Israelite, was chosen by God to be in His son’s lineage.

Don’t misunderstand the point of these biblical stories. It certainly isn’t to make you think that your life will have a fairytale ending just because life has dealt you some deep blows. No, they’re to remind you that your life isn’t over just because it has been rearranged by the death of your spouse.

Grief and suffering are not the end point of your life.

God gave each of these individuals children on whom they could focus their attention and feel blessed and hopeful. You may not have children on whom to focus your time and energy; but if you are faithful to Jesus and ask him,

He will bring into your life opportunities to serve Him through serving others.

I guarantee that over time hope and joy will be renewed in your heart and you will experience a newness of life.  Remember, Joseph named his second son Ephraim because God had made him fruitful in the land of his suffering. God will do the same for you.

Out of your greatest sorrow, God can bring your greatest joy as you do His bidding, always looking for opportunities to serve others. 

Think on these words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” No one nor any circumstance can thwart those plans.  

                If you are reading this and haven’t trusted Jesus Christ, God’s son, to be your savior, I invite you to do so. He wants to make you His child. All of these individuals from God’s Word are reminders that it doesn’t matter your background, what sins you’ve committed, the injustices life had dealt you or how great your grief, Jesus wants you to simply trust Him to make you His child and bear much good fruit in your life.

Message by Shari Hervold

"He Will Carry You"  by Lynda Randle