By: Patty Joyce
The story of Joseph, Jacob’s first son with Rachel, is one of my favorites (Genesis 37-50). If you haven’t read it lately, find a cozy spot, curl up with a cup of coffee or tea or whatever soothes you, and let your imagination take you to circa 1915 BC. You will find love, envy, betrayal, deceit, loyalty, false accusation, imprisonment, prophecy, famine, promotion, reconciliation, confession, and finally a relocation lasting 400 years. Even the theater and motion picture industry have consulted the Bible in their attempts to present another classic inspired by Holy Spirit. In fact, in 1972, this amazing account was made into a play entitled Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and in 1999 it became a motion picture by the same name.
I am sure at times you have had a certain scripture running through your mind. Well, I had Genesis 41:52, where Joseph names his second son.
“And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Genesis 41:52 KJV
It would seem that one would become unfruitful while in affliction or suffering. What does fruitful actually mean in this verse? Let’s take a further look at Strong's Concordance:
In the Hebrew, Strong’s H6504 means: to break through, spread or separate (one’s self), disperse, divide, be out of joint, part scatter (abroad), separate, sever, stretch. H6509 reads: bring forth, be, cause to be, make fruitful, grow, increase. These words certainly describe what happened to Joseph. His brothers separated him from their family, he was dispersed to Egyptian slave traders, and falsely severed from his master’s home. He was brought forth because God was with him, he was fruitful as his master’s attendant, grew popular in prison, and, finally, his position was increased to second in command over Egypt.
The balance of the verse identified where this fruitfulness took place—in the land of his affliction.
Referring again to Strong’s Concordance, H6040 means depression, misery, trouble. Separation, division, fruitfulness, prospering, affliction, trouble, suffering and the like, still remain with us as seasons of life.
I remember a middle-age wife and mother from a former church whose husband left her unexpectedly. Looking at them each Sunday and seeing him participating in church activities, one would never have thought such a thing could happen. But, after a while, she started a group ministry for those who experienced the same suffering. Another example is a well-known author and artist who was crippled in a diving accident and was left a paraplegic. She began a ministry for the disabled.
Joseph didn’t know his affliction would save his family from a famine or how long he would be second-in-command in Egypt. Considering what I think is my suffering, it certainly doesn’t compare to saving my family or being accountable to the leader of the greatest nation on earth. I must ask myself, “Am I suffering, and, if so, what does it accomplish?”
Currently, I am my husband’s caregiver, and I am no Florence Nightingale by any stretch of the imagination. With each day, it appears we will be in this season longer than expected. I don’t see myself as being fruitful, but I have been intentional in depending on the fruit of the Spirit. In the past, I don’t consciously remember praying for patience, kindness, self-control, and, of course, love to get through the rough spots—but, I am here to tell you Holy Spirit responded!
My husband bears a lot of pain in his present condition, and patience has not always been one of his virtues. Although he is uncomfortable and only getting snippets of sleep here and there, he is persevering and waiting for the relief that comes as his body heals little by little. I am proud of him for every small step of effort he is making during his affliction, which brings him closer to Christ.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Romans 8:16-17 NIV
And what about my fruitfulness through all of this? I am the one who watches as he struggles to get up from a chair and gingerly puts one foot in front of the other—it is heartbreaking to watch. Is it possible that we can be unconsciously fruitful in the pain and suffering of another by using our fruit of the Spirit?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
John 15:16 NIV
We each have afflictions, past, present, or future—caring for a chronically ill child, fighting the temptation of a familiar addiction, saying no to unforgiveness for a hurt that cut like a knife, living in a body that has an incurable disease, divorce, loneliness, grief, or many more that cause us to depend on the mercy and strength of God.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
Psalm 62:1-2 NIV
We are told that:
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
Matthew 7:16 NIV
“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
Romans 7:4 NIV
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Philippians 1:9-11 NIV
I believe the answer is, if I am in Christ, then I can be fruitful regardless of the land of my affliction. His Spirit lives within me and gives me all I need to be unconsciously Christ-like.