“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Many of you are probably familiar with the story of Joseph. You can find the bulk of it in Genesis chapters 37 through 50, but I will summarize the small section relevant to this post. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, although he was far from the oldest child. Jacob used Joseph to keep tabs on the affairs of his other sons, did not make him work in the fields in the same way as his brothers. In fact, Jacob adorned Joseph with an ornate robe that symbolized his favor. Joseph showed arrogance and pride in the way he presented his dreams to his brothers. His brothers were so jealous and angry over Joseph’s favor, they came up with a plan to kill him, but settled on selling him into slavery instead. Joseph’s life turned from that of favored son to slave.
Joseph soon gained favor with his master and despite his situation, God granted him success in all he did. Even after Joseph was wrongly accused of adultery and thrown into jail, a turn for the worst, Joseph gained favor once again and was granted success in his endeavors. While Joseph was a slave or imprisoned for thirteen years before he became second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, Joseph never seemed to lose faith in God’s plan for his life.
Parallel to Joseph’s story, we have the tale of his brothers and father. So much of their story is filled with sin and distrust. It is amazing that Joseph even comes from the same family. During the severe famine, however, we see the progress of Joseph’s brothers and eventually his father. Joseph had to endure amazing hardship before his earthly blessings were realized. Simultaneously, much of their own making, Joseph’s brothers were enduring hardship of their own. After Jacob learned of Joseph’s “death”, he grieved tremendously, to the point that he is still grieving more than thirteen years later when his other sons travel to Egypt for grain. This must have been a large burden for the brothers to bear. They were also dealing with the guilt of what they had done, which we see when Joseph tests his brothers before revealing himself. His brothers seem to show progress during this time too, because they “pass” Joseph’s tests in Egypt. Jacob, however, takes some time and has to completely rely on God given the famine and Joseph’s tests.
There is much more to this story than I can evaluate here, but notice that while Jacob’s family is often seen as superstars of the faith, they endured much hardship and many members of the family sinned in big ways. They each endure trials, yet their faith remains in God (or returns to God in some cases). Joseph acknowledges “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52) So many times we look at trials and hardship as punishment. We sink into anger or depression and look for a way out. However, many times there is not an easy solution. Joseph teaches us a lesson here. Joseph did not scheme or mope around, he served faithfully where he was placed and realized the success God gave him within his circumstances.
There are numerous places in the Bible where God instructs us to be joyful in all things. While the trials we face may seem insurmountable, God is using them for our good. I will not claim to know what that good is, and I find it difficult to find the good in some situations myself, but looking back at some of the hardest times of my life, I find the greatest growth. Betrayal and hurt, financial difficulties, loss, and many other struggles have caused me to rely on God and treat those around me with love. Only then can I find joy in the midst of sorrow and confusion.
Are you in the midst of a struggle yourself? Perhaps start by calling out to God and resting in the peace only He can give. Look to scripture and listen to wise counsel. Practice joy in all things. It becomes contagious to all parts of your life, including those around you. Will this make your struggle disappear? I cannot answer that, but I can say you can find more peace and joy in your situation. I am by no means an expert at this, but I have experienced God’s peace and joy in the midst of difficult situations, and I plan on continuing to practice joy in all things. If I can pray for you in some specific way, leave me a comment below.
Next week I will begin writing for the blog hop at Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study for Stressed Less Life by Tracie Miles. I look forward to diving into this study and reducing the stress in my life. I invite you to join me, especially if life seems overwhelming and you are looking for a way to study the Bible in your own time.