Nobody really likes the desert. I’m guessing, if they had the choice, most people would look to escape the storm. Say what you want about trials, testings, and terrible situations, and the potential benefits of being in the crucible, but, at the end of the day, who doesn’t want out of the fire?
We cling to the promise that while weeping may hang around for a night, joy comes with the morning (Ps. 65:8) and so, we focus on the morning. We long for the morning. We pray for the morning. We can’t wait for some daylight. To go back to how things were when they were good. But what if the morning isn’t necessarily an escape from our current situation but is actually the recognition that, by God’s grace, we’re actually flourishing where we are, in the trials of the night?
Continuing to read Joseph’s story and chewing on the idea of being fruitful in affliction.
Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
(Genesis 41:50-52 ESV)
Forgetful and fruitful. That’s what God had made Joseph in the land of Egypt.
Egypt, the place where he was sold as chattel. Egypt, the land where this once favored son was demoted to the bottom of the food chain and his reputation destroyed. Egypt, that “season” of being forgotten in prison for “two whole years” (Gen 40:23-41:1).
But it was also Egypt, the place where, in a sense, he rose from the dead–having been buried by his father and brothers back in Canaan. Egypt, the land of knowing God’s favor in profound ways, even as a house-boy and a prisoner. Egypt, the season of discovering he could be an oracle of God and a savior, of sorts, to all the world.
And so, when he named his own two boys, he paused long enough to look around and, though still in Egypt, realized that God had done an incredible work even why he still dwelt in the desert. That miles and miles of sand dunes had, in fact, become his new norm, forgetting the good old days of feasting in his father’s house. That this had become his place of thriving, even as he recognized the fruit born in the land of affliction.
A picture of Jesus. A reminder to me.
Jesus could have avoided the cross. More than that, He didn’t have to put up with all the opposition He was subjected to during His years of public ministry. And, beyond that even, He didn’t have to endure the season of enduring the testings and trials of the flesh in order to know our frame and sympathize with our weakness. Though He prayed for the morning, yet He endured the night knowing that God would make Him forget His hardship and make Him fruitful in the land of His affliction (Matt. 26:39, Heb. 12:2). Praise God! ‘Cause I am a tiny, tiny piece of that harvest.
And so, while I might feel like I’ve been in my own desert for a while now, and that there’s no sign of going back (wherever back is), I too can see how God has made me to forget, and how through His overflowing favor He has even allowed some fruit to be seen. How the seeds of hardship which were sown have allowed me to reap a new crop of realizing the faithfulness of God and appreciating the power of the gospel. Of knowing His strength even in my weakness. Of seeing His power even in my plight.
Forgetting and fruitful. Even in the desert. Even before the morning has come. Content in my current situation because of the presence, power, and promises of my Savior . . . in all my situations.
. . . for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11b-13 ESV)
Fruitful. Even in affliction.
By His grace. For His glory.