Fruitful in the land of my affliction. I’ve written about this phrase before. It comes from Genesis 41:52, where Joseph names his second son after years of bondage in Egypt which led to his becoming the second in command to Pharaoh.
The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Joseph intrigues me, yet I resist his story at times as well. I have heard a number of sermons over the years from his life. 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.
Yet there is much to learn from Joseph’s story, particularly of our God. 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. That 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. 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. Joseph’s story reminds me 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 … “
I hope you will believe with me today that God has a plan to bear fruit in our lives not just despite the affliction and struggles we wish would leave our lives but through those very struggles, using them as the actual conduit for this fruitfulness. God uses the hardest parts of the story of believer after believer in Scripture to bear beautiful fruit for His name. This is His calling card. It is the God of Joseph’s story that causes me to hope in the midst of struggle.
Wendy, thank you for this post. It really met me where I am today- struggling with infertility and early onset menopause with all the fun symptoms. It's been a tough couple weeks and I really needed this exhortation and encouragement from God's word.
Thansk, Wendy. I really needed this reminder today.
So timely.:-) “When I am weak, then I am strong.”2 Cor. 12:10 Thank you, friend.
I deal with a deep and abiding fatigue. Never leaves….ever. A lot of pain with it and sometimes hopelessness…I am too young to feel this way. Sometimes I think I could just do so much more if God would heal this. I wonder what I would accomplish if fatigue did not bite at my heels day in and day out. Yesterday I was reminded that it is not about what I can accomplish, it is about what God accomplishes in and through me. I am struggling and this post was much needed today.
Thank you for this…struggling to yield to where God has me and what He has called me to in this season (especially following a season overseas that “seemed” more fruitful/blessed). Such good truth on the value of affliction in the care of His good hands.
Such a blessing, as always. I wonder if “affliction” can be applied to our own sin and its consequences. So much of my strife and affliction is my own doing, a stronghold that I want rid of that I have battled for years. I can so much more easily accept difficult circumsances if it is something completely out of my control, because I would know that it was certainly God's will…but I struggle with my own doings and feel all the accompanying emotions — fear, discouragement, anger. I wrestle with knowing if this is still the “land of my affliction” in which I am to be fruitful. I love your blog! Always such encouragement and truth! Also, amen to not making Joseph the image we are being conformed to! I agree — too often moral lessons are drawn from his story! Sorry for the long comment.
A hard truth but a comforting one. Thank you, Wendy.
This is such a timely message. Just yesterday I experienced one of the most emotionally charged, faith tested moment, I didn't think I would get through to today. I find this informtion in my in-box this morning, brings such joy and peace to my soul. God is trully an amazing, awesome, incredible God. I truly appeciate Him and the way He knows how to give us just what we need, at the time we need it.
God Bless you Wendy and your famil adn ministry.
Thank you to all who commented today. You all remind me that the suffering we experience, which often feels quite alienating, is actually something many (most?) of us face.
Thank you for posting! It does feel lonely out here sometimes as a woman on the gospel battlefield–I'm so glad to discover your blog.
Thank you for this, I needed to hear that scripture from John that you closed with, especially today. God 'gave' that to me just before I entered the worst season of suffering I ever experienced, and needed to be reminded again of suffering's purposes.
One of which is to “comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted by God” — and again thank you for doing this for me, in a profound way.
I am subscribing to your blog as well — I have never done this with any other blog, but I think I need to hear from someone who has mountains falling into their sea, right now. 'Cause there is a gigantic mountain in my sea too, but I'm going to believe God's going to move it…. or make it into a valley.
Karen, thank you for commenting and subscribing. I'm so glad that you've found some comfort and encouragement here as you walk through such deep pain and suffering. God bless you in this journey!