When Tristan went to heaven I was immediately flung into the land of affliction. It’s a land where I carry the missing in my breast. Over time the barren soil began to spring forth new things and one of them was eyes to see grief in other people. Even people in the Bible. Most of you probably know the story of Joseph. If not, it’s one well worth reading.

My new eyes of grief saw something unusual in Joseph’s story. Joseph’s life takes an uphill turn when Pharaoh gives him a bride, and two sons are born to him. What he names the second son made sense to me. Ephraim – “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

But here is what Joseph named his first son:

Manasseh – “God has made me forget all my trouble and all of my father’s household.”

Forget? That doesn’t seem possible. Look what Joseph does when he finally sees his family again:  

 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.  And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. (Genesis 45:1-2)

Imagine crying so hard that your sobs fill the room, but not just the room, they fill the entire house, but not just your house, your cries go down the street and inside a walled and heavily guarded palace!

That doesn’t sound like a guy who forgot. So, I did a little digging to see if there was an alternative meaning for Manasseh. Here is what I found:

Manasseh can be translated “God has released me from all the debt of my hardship, and from all my father’s house.”

“The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary” by Robert Alter

It makes so much more sense for Manasseh to mean “released me from all the debt of my hardship” instead of meaning “to forget”.

 

How Joseph’s Story Applies to Us

As grieving parents we know we will never forget. But we can pray that God will release us from the debt of our hardship. Part of being relieved of that debt comes when God gives us something in return. Perhaps we have:

  • new perspective
  • new priorities
  • new desperation
  • new dependence
  • new humility
  • new eyes
  • new need
  • new gratefulness
  • new wisdom

All of those hard wrought things are for God’s use for His kingdom. We will live the rest of our lives in the land of our affliction, but as the debt of our hardship is relieved, we can bear fruit there.

And wouldn’t it be amazing if God allows our children to observe from the heavenly realm exactly how their lives are bearing fruit down here, in ways that even we cannot see yet?  (Randy Alcorn proposes this in his book on Heaven).

Joseph, despite becoming a new person in a new land, never forgot his brothers or his father. But he was released from the debt of hardship all while carrying the missing in his breast. And despite the missing, he was made fruitful in the land of his affliction. This is my new prayer for us all.