During this time, before the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On. Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.” (Gen 41:50-52)
“Baggage” is a term often used to describe the way many of us allow the past to control the present. Many struggle in their marriage because of baggage. Some struggle in their friendships because of baggage. A few of us even struggle in church because of baggage. If ever there was someone who had reason for baggage, it was Joseph. Yet Joseph did a very wise thing in life. He allowed the Lord to handle his baggage. Joseph allowed God to help him forgive, forget and become fruitful.
In describing His purpose for coming to earth, the Lord Jesus said – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” (Lk 4:18) A great part of Jesus’ ministry is removing our baggage and giving us the freedom to become fruitful. I am not a psychologist, but allow me to make some suggestions regarding how the Lord worked in Joseph’s life.
First of all, we might say that the Lord healed Joseph through a new perspective. I am sure that leaving the prison behind and entering into the palace gave Joseph a momentary ‘fix’; kind of like a lot of us get with spending money or eating something. Yet it didn’t automatically guarantee that he was now healed. The world is full of prominent people who are carrying around a lot of baggage. But I do believe that Joseph viewed this moment in his life as a God-given opportunity to gain a new perspective and move on. After all, why stay in prison when you can now live in the palace?
Secondly, I believe that God used the process of time to heal Joseph. We’ve considered a number of reasons why Joseph spent so many years in prison and as a slave; yet perhaps another reason might have something to do with the time that was necessary for Joseph himself to grow and heal. Here are three reasons why Joseph may have needed this time:
- Time to review his circumstances. I’m sure that during Joseph’s time in Egypt , he often thought about his father and brothers. I’m sure that he remembered the love his father had shown him, as well as the anger he had experienced from his brothers. I’m sure he rehearsed a million times the day his brothers seized him and threw him into the pit. Though perhaps he tried to put much of it out of his mind, I’m sure that his emotions kept hitting the replay button. Is there any benefit to reviewing our circumstances? For one thing, how can we not? But also, I read several years ago that one of the necessary elements of emotional healing is reviewing and even verbalizing our feelings. According to this author, reviewing and verbalizing our feelings helps us to organize our emotions so that we are better able to manage them.
- Time to search his own soul. Rehashing the past will do little good unless we are willing to take an honest look at ourselves. Had he gone too far in revealing his dreams to his brothers? Did he ever flaunt before them his father’s favoritism? Perhaps the thirteen years were necessary to help him see some things from his brothers’ perspective.
- Time to come to grips and accept. If time has the ability to heal any wounds, it is because time forces us to go through the process of reviewing, resisting and resting. Joseph needed time to review what had happened. Perhaps there was a time when he resisted. But over time he rested.
Lastly, I believe that God helped Joseph to heal by giving him a purpose to go on. God was gracious to Joseph and gave him a new job, a new wife and a new family. Rather than taking them for granted, Joseph embraced them and began to built his life around them.
I remember a time many years ago when I was resisting what God was doing, or perhaps I should say – what He wasn’t doing in my life. One day I fussed at God and in my heart the Holy Spirit said, “You don’t want to do My will. You want Me to do your will.” Suddenly I realized how true those words were. At that moment I prayed, asking the Lord to forgive me and telling Him that I would accept whatever He wanted for me. I’m not sure if God was waiting for me to come to that point, but in only a matter of days my circumstances began to change.