Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction

Fruitful in the land of my affliction. That phrase may sound poetic to some and archaic to others. Personally, I find it striking. I first wrote about it a few years ago when I was in a very dark place, and it is time for me to revisit it. The phrase comes from Genesis 41:52, where Joseph names his second son.

The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

I have heard a number of sermons over the years from the life of Joseph. He often becomes a moral lesson – be like Joseph when you are sexually tempted and unjustly accused, and God will exalt you as He did Joseph. I strongly resist that view of the life of Joseph. God’s not conforming me to the image of Joseph. He’s conforming me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Joseph’s story is powerful because it reveals God, not because it reveals Joseph. My circumstances will be distinctly different than Joseph’s, but my God is the same.

There is much to learn of God in Joseph’s story, and the naming of Joseph’s son is one such place. Many thoughts hit me as I meditate on why Joseph named his son Ephraim (which sounds like the Hebrew word for fruitful). First, it’s counterintuitive. Joseph was fruitful in the very place that should have sucked the life out of him. The paradox intrigues me. But, second, I resist the name, because I don’t want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. I want God to END my affliction, and then I want to be fruitful in the beautiful land I imagined would be God’s best for His children. However, like Joseph, I am powerless to end whatever troubles plague me, and I get impatient waiting for God to move. It is in those moments that I wrestle with God, “How can I do what You have called me to do in THESE circumstances?!”

Once I calm down and take an objective look at Scripture, it finally hits me that no one in Scripture seems to be very fruitful EXCEPT in the land of their affliction. In fact, you can argue from Scripture that suffering, affliction, and death to self are essential to God’s plan for fruitfulness in His children.

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

I have situations in my life that plague me, that I would desperately love to see changed. God tells me to pray for His will to be done, for His name to be hallowed, and for His kingdom to come. I long for those things to come about in my home, in my neighborhood, in my church, and in the larger Body of Christ. I talked about this in depth here. But in the midst of waiting for the affliction to end and God’s kingdom to come, I am blessed by God’s story in the life of Joseph, and I meditate on what it looks like to be fruitful in the very places from which I would most like to be delivered. And I receive hope that affliction doesn’t end the possibility of fruitfulness but may instead be the very thing that prepares the ground for “fruit that remains.”

John 15:16 NAS “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain … “

9 Responses to Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction

  1. Julia May 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    I was just thinking the other day how no one in the Bible is 'called out' in order to be more comfortable somewhere else, but called out to *serve God*.

    We invest so much in finding God in our comfort zone that sometimes we forget that the point is just to look for God.

  2. Anonymous May 26, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    Thank you so much for this encouragement, Wendy…A beautiful picture/ place to ponder as we trust God with suffering…O Lord, help us to surrender and endure well that You may live large in and through us…bring forth much beautiful lasting fruit in our lives for Your Glory!

  3. H.E.R. Impressions May 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I've struggled greatly with trying to remain fruitful and thankful when living in a spiritually barren location. Now that I'm preparing to move on I can look back and see that this time forced me to study Scripture on my own. I've learned much more than I would have had I had my own church home, but I still desperately long for the fellowship with other believers. Thank you so much for this post.

  4. Anonymous May 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Having just gone through a season of affliction, I thank you for reminding me of the truth associated with such a time. James reminds me that God has graced us with a purpose in our suffering, and it is fruitfulness, growth, endurance, and Christlikeness! What a gift that our affliction is not in vain.

    I found myself thinking,”In this time of affliction I don't feel useful.” The truth that God revealed to me from His word is that in the affliction, He gives me a megaphone and an opportunity to proclaim His glory…even in this. This, to me, equals fruitfulness that I cannot claim as my own doing.

    Praise be to God for fruitfulness in affliction! Thank you, Wendy!

  5. Kristi May 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately, too, and just wrote a devotional about it for the Glory and Strength Webzine (http://www.gloryandstrength.com/index_files/DevotionalEncouragement.htm). Thank your for sharing your insights on this!

  6. Luma May 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I was just coming out of such a season, when my gracious heavenly Father sent me an anguish and an affliction that felt like a punch to my soul. So here I am, in the midst of one again. And too true you say, “I don't want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. I want God to END my affliction, and then I want to be fruitful in the beautiful land I imagined would be God's best for His children.”

    Over the last year God has re-awakened my soul to His gospel. He has made me fall in love with Jesus in a profound and deep way. Jesus has become my ONLY hope. Jesus has become my ONLY savior. The same God that brought Joseph through his affliction, will bring me out of mine.

    Thank you for this nourishment.

  7. Anonymous May 27, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    The enemy works hard to try to render us ineffective and useless for the Kingdom in times of trials. This is a very great motivator for relying on the Lord for persevering well. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work and we get to participate too.

  8. Mommacee May 27, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Echoes my heart as well… i am struggling with wondering why God allows us to keep struggling along with making ends meet when it would seem that God could be much more glorified by our abundance and sharing with the Body. Instead He has us crying out to Him for our daily needs and resting all the stress in His hands. It is much easier said than done but truly it has been a journey of faith and many lessons in humilty.

  9. Jenn A May 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    This is a good exhortation for me as I continue to struggle with ongoing heart health problems while trying to be a godly wife and mother to four boys. Thank you!