By Rebecca Holloway
Our church is reading through the Bible this year using Foundations, a study by Robby and Kandi Gallaty. (The subtitle is “A 260-Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Believers.” I think that’s all of us.)
As I was journeying back through the story of Joseph, which begins in Genesis 37, I was struck how much his story is like a sweeping Hollywood narrative.
He’s the favorite son of his father, Israel. But his brothers hated him, so they threw him in a well, sold him to gypsies, and told their father he has died. Then Joseph is taken all the way to Egypt, and where by the providence of God, he is sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials.
The Bible tells us in the early verses of Genesis 39 that the Lord was with Joseph, and he prospered in the house of Potiphar. They soon saw how valuable Joseph was, and Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household. Now apparently, Joseph was handsome, and Potiphar’s wife took notice. After Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual misconduct, he was thrown into prison. Things weren’t looking so great.
But as before, the Lord was with Joseph and made him successful – even in prison.
The warden took notice of him and made him responsible for all of those held there. As Genesis 40 opens, the cupbearer and the baker for the king had offended their master, as the Bible says, and they found themselves in the same prison as Joseph.
They had been there a while when they both had disturbing dreams on the same night. The next morning they both told Joseph their dreams, and God helped Joseph interpret them. One of them had a good outcome. The other did not.
And everything that had been foretold in those dreams wound up coming true, and the cupbearer was returned to his position in the court of the king. Joseph had asked him to remember him, but it took the cupbearer two years to do so.
It was only when Pharaoh had a dream that he did not understand that the cupbearer remembered Joseph, his cell mate. Joseph was quickly brought before the king and was able to interpret the dream with God’s help. He warned Pharaoh that a famine was to come on the land, and that the kingdom must be prepared.
Pharaoh was so pleased with Joseph that he made him second in command of all of Egypt, and he gave him a wife. She bore him two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. Eventually, Joseph’s actions saved all of Egypt and wound up saving his family – the same family that had left him for dead.
It’s an amazing story.
But it was in the naming of Joseph’s children where I was stopped in my tracks. Genesis 41:52 in particular: “The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.'”
Indeed, God had made Joseph very fruitful.
I have been using a study Bible that I haven’t used in years to read through the Bible this year, and it has old notes in it from studies I did long years ago. In this section of Genesis, there are notes from Beth Moore’s study The Patriarchs. She had instructed us to circle the many times the scriptures say “The Lord was with Joseph.”
Even in the darkness of a pit.
Even when falsely accused.
Even when chained in a prison.
Even when standing before a king that could have taken his life.
The Lord was with Joseph.
But it couldn’t have been easy on him. His brothers had betrayed him.
A woman had told serious lies about him. Jail is not where you want to find yourself – especially when you’re innocent. Yet even through all this hardship, he recognized that God had made him fruitful.
God had used him in every single situation in which he had been placed.
That is great faith.
That is seeing beyond your circumstances and seeing that God is writing a bigger story than your own.
Years later, that kind of faith made him say to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
So how does my “word for the year” come from all of this? I want God to make me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
As many of you know, the last year of my life has been extremely hard. There has been pain beyond what I ever imagined. Also, Evan’s issues will always be there.
I have come to a place of finally accepting that this is our life, and we have to adapt ourselves to it. But I don’t just want to trudge my way through it. I want it to be used for Jesus.
Written beside Genesis 41:52 in my Bible was the verse John 15:8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
That is my goal for this year: to bear much fruit.
I have already seen that prayer answered this past weekend when I got to lead a breakout session at our state women’s conference. God did beyond what I could ask or imagine through that experience. I pray He will give me more opportunities to serve Him in that way soon.
Even in the land of our suffering, affliction, or grief, God can use us. No matter what we’re going through, let’s allow Him to make us fruitful so the world will know we are His disciples.
Rebecca Holloway is the wife of Stewart Holloway, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pineville. This editorial first appeared on her One Minute Blog.