Joseph’s take: Suffering can be fruitful
Palitha Jayasooriya // September 10, 2018, 6:00 am
Photo by Alex Loup on Unsplash
The life of Joseph is the kind of story dreams are built on. After 13 years of toil and trial, he became the second most powerful man in Egypt. Thereafter, God blessed him with two sons, and he named his second son Ephraim, which means “fruitful through affliction” (Genesis 41:52).
The word “affliction” is translated “suffering” in the NIV. In spite of the “affliction”, God made Joseph fruitful at every twist and turn, and he eventually became Pharaoh’s top executive and Egypt’s highest civil servant. How so?
In the Genesis 37 account, we read that Joseph had the status of being Jacob’s “favourite son” – glaringly evidenced by his special “coat of many colours” (Genesis 37:3). His brothers took revenge on him because of their envy and rejected him through betrayal.
To make matters worse, Joseph foolishly boasted about his futuristic dreams, where one day he would rule over his entire family. The hatred that was simmering in the hearts of his brothers reached boiling point and they made plans to kill him.
Thanks to the intervention of Reuben and Judah, they put him in a cistern instead and sold him off as a slave to a band of Midianite merchants who, in turn, sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.
Joseph was now a slave. One can only imagine this young man’s pain and loneliness. It is certain that he would have been treated harshly – maybe viciously – by the slave-traders.
However, God gave him favour with Potiphar, who saw the unique faith, wisdom and skills this young Hebrew slave possessed and put him in charge of his household and everything he owned.
Rejection is always painful, especially when the blow comes from someone we have loved or have helped. But as with Joseph, through rejection, God can teach us valuable lessons, enhance our skills and make us fruitful and a blessing to others.
Joseph went from “favourite slave” to “favourite executive”, and God blessed Potiphar because of him (Genesis 39:5).
2. False accusation
As Joseph began to prosper, Potiphar’s wife was attracted to him and tried to seduce him. Soon, he was facing constant sexual harassment in the workplace.
How we handle charater assassination will determine how fruitful we will be through it.
Just as she thought she’d trapped him into a compromising situation, Joseph ran away. He did not want to hurt either God or Potiphar (Genesis 39:8-9). She exacted her revenge by falsely accusing him of trying to molest her, and he was thrown into prison.
Character assassination is one of the most difficult challenges a human can face. How we handle it will determine how fruitful we will be through it.
Joseph didn’t grumble or complain; he trusted in the Lord. And God gave him favour with the prison warden, who made him the chief administrator in the prison! Joseph was now “favourite prisoner”.
3. Being forgotten
For an offence against the Egyptian king, his chief cupbearer and chief baker were thrown into prison – the same prison Joseph was in. When these two men had dreams, Joseph interpreted them accurately. The chief cupbearer was restored to his position, while the chief baker was executed – exactly as Joseph had predicted.
Joseph pleaded with the chief cupbearer to speak to the king on his behalf once he was released. “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23)
Thankfully, when Pharaoh had bad dreams two years later and none of his wise men could interpret them, the chief cupbearer’s memory came alive again and he put Joseph’s name forward.
While most people search for the “right” contacts at conferences, seminars and other events, Joseph found his contact inside a prison! God may do the same for you – working in His unexpected ways, in the most inconceivable of places.
After interpreting the king’s dreams accurately, Joseph was released and promoted to the second highest position in Egypt (Genesis 41:43). At the age of 30, he was assigned the huge task of saving the country and the surrounding world from the famine that was about to break out.
Joseph handled the task to perfection. In the process, he was used by God to bring restoration to his family and thus save the nation of Israel. Joseph’s status now? “Favourite diplomat.”
Where did Joseph acquire the skills needed for this massive operation? It was during the 13 years he spent in Potiphar’s house and in prison as he faced the afflictions of being rejected, falsely accused and being forgotten.
He proclaimed 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)
God can make you fruitful through every affliction too. As He did with Joseph, He can with you.
Questions for reflection
- What afflictions are you going through right now? How are you reacting to it? As God was with Joseph, so will He be with you; He will never forget you (Isaiah 49:15).
- Have your efforts been overlooked? Maybe your labour in the ministry seems to have been forgotten by others. Be patient and keep trusting the Lord and He will lift you up at the right time (Psalm 37:34).