Fruitful in Affliction
Affliction. I don’t know about you, but I tend to want to either run from it or get rid of it. I do not like it, I do not want it and I do not pray for it. Flee or fight - that is what I do. Many others seek to self-medicate themselves in various ways – overworking, overdrinking, sexual addiction, self-abuse, abuse of others, overeating, self-punishment and more. If we cannot run from or get rid of it, at least numb the feelings it produces. Yet affliction comes in various forms, at various times and for various lengths of time.
Joseph was a man familiar with affliction. Betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers, an alien in a foreign land, imprisoned on a false charge – he was a man intimately acquainted with affliction and pain. After his years of suffering, he comes to a place in life where he names his sons. He gives his second-born son the name “Ephraim” (Genesis 41:52) which means, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Ephraim's name acknowledges the truth of God’s actions. Joseph lived a life of affliction in various forms, at various times and for various lengths of time. Even so, He reached a point in life when he could both recognize and say “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” What a gift to get to that place! During affliction God may be bearing fruit in our lives that we cannot see. Our eyes, ears and hearts are clouded by pain, weariness, hopelessness and grief to the fruit that He is producing. It truly was a gift that Joseph was able to see the good that came.
Thinking further upon the life of Joseph, I realize that he gets to that point and names Ephraim while he is STILL in the land of his affliction. Often I think that fruit comes when I am freed from the place of affliction. Yet, Joseph claims God’s fruitfulness while he is STILL IN the land of pain, still in the land to which he was sold as a slave, still a foreigner. In fact, He claims God’s fruitfulness BEFORE he is reconciled with his brothers and sees his father again.
Many of us are in the midst of affliction. Perhaps pain, weariness or grief is clouding the view of what God is doing. In the midst of affliction we cannot see fruit. Even if we can see any fruit we still might wonder, “Is it worth it?” In the midst of affliction it is sometimes all we can do to simply speak, “God is good; God is sovereign.” We speak it because it is both true and difficult to believe. We speak it as our prayer. Sometimes all we can do is simply speak, “God is good; God is sovereign and our hope is in Him”.
My prayer is this: that we would have the joy of being able to say that God has made us fruitful in our lands of affliction. In saying it, praying it and repeating it, I pray that our faith will grow stronger believing that God is good; He is sovereign and He redeems - whether we can see it or not.