Not long ago, I wrote these words in a message to a friend, “Middle school was an absolute nightmare for me.”
Oh, it so was. I had great friends; it wasn’t peer pressure or mean girls that made it so miserable. Yet, those were difficult years for lots of reasons all piled together forming one mountain of middle school angst.
Most of the time, I forget those preteen emotions. They have little presence in the workings of my everyday mind and heart. Yet, just occasionally I am reminded of them. Although it takes some purposeful recollecting, and although the pictures are unclear, almost as if they happened to someone else—yes, I do still remember.
Joseph knew more than most of us about enduring hard times and living through moments he’d rather forget. Narrowly escaping being murdered by his brothers, he had instead been sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, tossed into prison and left there—not for days or weeks, but years and years.
Time passed and Joseph was freed, even elevated to power in a whirlwind of activity. Now second in the land, lesser only than Pharaoh, he married and had two sons. The names he chose for them have made me pause.
Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Genesis 41: 50-52
Manasseh, God has made me forget. In some ways, through the sheer distance of time, we cannot remember the details of the past clearly. Sometimes that’s God’s grace, that our past of pain grows hazy in the light of present blessing.
Yet, do we ever forget, truly forget, all our trouble? Did Joseph?
Surely he was now in a foreign land, an adult and no longer a teenage braggart annoying his brothers. No more following sheep in a field; now he managed a world power. His life seemed totally broken off from the long-ago upbringing by a doting father. The coat of many colors probably wouldn’t have fit over his frame any longer.
But did he forget? Truly forget?
Not by the way he reacted to his brothers’ sudden appearance in Egypt, begging for food in the midst of famine. Not as he spotted their faces in the crowd of travelers. Not as he invited them to a personal audience. Not as he conspired to see his younger brother and father once again. Not as he returned their silver. Not as he fled the room to cry in privacy after talking with them all once again.
Is it not so much that he forgot, but instead that he learned and grew, matured and transformed? Through trouble, God had refined him.
Not Manasseh. Not forgetting. But Ephraim. Being made fruitful in the land of my suffering
It seems so much less about a past wiped clean from memory and so much more about allowing God to work “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), even during those moments and seasons and years we would prefer to forget.
So it was for Joseph’s brothers, who dug down deep into the sacks of grain they carried back from Egypt. Suddenly their hands felt not wheat, but silver. Secretly, Joseph had placed treasure in each bag.
Beth Moore in The Patriarchs wrote:
“In the midst of His unfolding plan, He’d buried treasures for them to unearth at times they least expected. Do you feel in deep peril? At great risk? Your God has given you treasure. Search for it.”
We can stand at life’s blackboard and erase and erase and erase in attempts to forget. Oh, could we just forget how we felt in that moment, how we went through that trial, how we hurt, how we cried, how we were afraid, how we were broken.
But we would miss the treasure hidden there.
When you find yourself in famine, dig deep for the treasure of God. Perhaps God in His grace will cover over pain with forgetfulness, replacing memories of hurt with the blessing of intimacy in His presence. Yet, even more precious than forgetting is allowing Him to make you fruitful in the land of your suffering.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King