Fruit From Suffering
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 (NIV)
Have you noticed families that struggle with unhealthy behaviors usually have parents with the same unhealthy behaviors? Recently, I was reading the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was a victim of his brother’s jealousy. The brother’s jealousy was the product of his parent’s favoritism. Jealousy and favoritism are costly. They cost Joseph the love of his brothers, his childhood, and 13 years in prison. When you read Joseph’s story, you find yourself wondering, “How did jealousy and favoritism destroy this Godly family and rob a young boy of his youth?”
The sins of jealousy and favoritism came from previous generations who struggled with the exact same issues. To get a complete picture, we must look at Joseph’s family tree. Let’s start with Abram and Sarah who had a son named Isaac. Sarah loved Isaac more than Ishmael. Isaac marries Rebekah, and they had two sons Jacob and Esau. Rebekah loved Jacob and Isaac favored Esau. Jacob’s mom’s jealousy convinced him to steal his brother’s birthright. When Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s birthright, he left home and married two sisters named Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and the sin of jealousy and favoritism continued. Jealousy and favoritism came into this family through past generations. Leah tried to buy the love of Jacob by giving him more sons than Rachel. When Rachel finally gave birth to a son, his father Jacob loved him over his other brothers. We are reminded that history repeats itself. Can we change the destructive patterns of our past? Or are we destined to be the product of generational sin?
I believe the secret lies in Genesis 41:50-52. Joseph was out of prison, and the name he gave his two sons indicated that Joseph had not allowed his family dysfunction to continue with his sons. Joseph named his first son Manasseh. This son reminded him to never forget the suffering of his father’s household and not to allow his suffering to produce bitterness. His next son he named Ephraim to remind him of the good things that came from his suffering. Before Joseph was thrown into a pit and sold, the family favoritism made him prideful. Now, his two sons are his opportunity to stop the generational sin and start a new generation of love and acceptance. When Joseph embraced his sons, he embraced his past by forgiving. We cannot change our past, but we can change our present. As we take our eyes off the sins of our parents, we protect our hearts from bitterness. Forgiveness is the only way to stop the past from destroying the future. Forgiveness does not excuse or dismiss the sins of our parents, but it will stop the sin from visiting our children. Change starts now, not in the past. Joseph chose to forgive, and it was the beginning of a new life.
Further Reading Genesis 12; Genesis 25; Genesis 28-50