While You’re Waiting For Things To Be Made Right

Wendy Alsup | February 1st 2022

Joseph named his second son “Ephraim,” which sounds like the Hebrew word for “fruitful.” He gives his reason for choosing this name in Genesis 41:52:

God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.

My first reaction to this name was negative. I didn’t want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. I wanted my affliction to end. Forgetting the past and going on fruitfully in the future felt like acquiescing to another’s sin. Would I be accommodating someone’s sin against me if I tried to make the best of it?

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Finding Footing

The name Ephraim would strike me after a divorce I did not want. As a single mom trying to raise two middle-school boys, I had just started to get my feet back under me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each new trial felt like a wave in the ocean pushing me back underwater, just as I’d managed to get to the surface gasping for breath. 

The name Ephraim gave me a different perspective. Perhaps the image of being in an ocean overcome by waves was the wrong one. Joseph was fruitful in the land, not the ocean, of his affliction. Though it was hard to find footing in these new situations in my life, maybe there was footing to be had if I would put my feet down to feel for it. Instead of treading water, waiting on the boat to return and make things right, maybe I could find land and plant seeds.

Struggling to Stand

I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand up in this new and different land I found myself in. I didn’t want to be divorced. I didn’t want to have cancer. I couldn’t envision anything good coming out of this new territory. It felt like giving in to all that was wrong in my life, to try to find footing on this new rocky ground.

No, I was going to tread water, hanging on until the ship came back and made things right. After all, Joseph would have been justified in folding his arms in the dungeon (after he was unjustly accused and then forgotten) and stubbornly declaring, “You have no right to do this to me!”

"In the waiting for things to be made right, dwell in the land you have been given, even if it is not the one you want, and cultivate faithfulness there (Psalm 37:3)."

Planting Seeds

But you can’t tread water forever. And some boats are not going to return anytime soon to pluck you out of the waves. Visions of a vast ocean with no returning boat in sight left me with no agency, flailing in the waves while waiting on others to do the right thing. 

It did my head and heart good to stop seeing myself in an ocean overcome by loss, and instead envision myself on dry, though unfamiliar, terrain. I could stand up, even if my legs were shaky. I could explore, even if I didn’t know where I was going. I could plant, even if I didn’t know exactly what would sprout up.

As we wait on reconciliation, the name Joseph gave his second son encourages and equips us. In the waiting for things to be made right, dwell in the land you have been given, even if it is not the one you want, and cultivate faithfulness there (Psalm 37:3). Though the field you have been given is not the one you planned, the seeds left to sow may yet yield fruit that will surprise and bless you.

This article is adapted from I Forgive You by Wendy Alsup, which looks at forgiveness in the story of Joseph

Wendy Alsup

Wendy Alsup is the author of Companions in Suffering and Practical Theology for Women. She lives on an old family farm in South Carolina, where she teaches math at a local community college and is a mother to her two boys. She writes at theologyforwomen.org and gospelcenteredwoman.org.

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