Looking back, looking forward

Today at church we reflected on the names Joseph gave his sons; Ephraim and Manasseh.

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” 

Genesis 41:51-52

Reading through my twitter timeline, I get the sense that most of us are done with 2017. As in done. Ayaw ko na balikan kind of done. It had been rough for us and for our country and we’d do anything for a new beginning, right?

But at the same time, I can not see a hopeful anticipation of 2018. I see doubt. I see fear. Maybe 2018 will betray us like 2017, we say. Maybe all things just go downhill from here.

Truth is, the years don’t owe us anything. The years don’t write themselves.

One of my favorite bible characters is Joseph. I read about his life a lot this year. How although he is immensely loved by his father Jacob, he faced contempt and hatred from his brothers. How he was scoffed at when God gave him a dream. How his own brothers sold him to slavery. How he got accused of rape, got thrown into jail. Many many years later, he became the dream God gave him. He stood tall before his brothers. He said God meant all those evil things for good. Wow. Most days I can only hope for an integrity, purity, and steadfastness like that of Joseph’s.

Now a father, he looks back at his own life to name his sons. What we learn;

1. Manasseh – “God has made me forget all my hardship”

Joseph did not just have a hard year. He had rough years. Faced enmity and hardship on all sides. But when he looks back he does not see the moments that broke him – he sees God’s work. God’s way of sticking to His promises.

Really, when we look at the past year through the lens of gratefulness, we would be filled. We will see God’s faithfulness. His light in our darkness. God’s promises that came to life. Things we never even dreamed of but we’re given to us.

Thank You Jesus. You make us forget because when we look to You the things of this world fade into the background; His glory and power shining all around us.

2. Ephraim – “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”

Fruitful, he was. In every task assigned to Joseph, he prospered, not because he was skilled or highly organized or expert in running a government unit; but because God was with him in everything he did. That is peppered throughout the account of his life. God was with him. And so it did not matter if he was a slave in a foreigner’s house, or assistant to a jail warden in prison, or chief over food operations in Egypt; the place and position did not give him success. God gave it to him.

We will find ourselves in places and positions unfavorable to us. That’s just life. But I pray that just like Joseph, we walk closely with God, and focus on working for Him, even in the lands of our affliction. God is able of kneading and knitting the worst of situations into beauty and fruitfulness.

We face a new year tomorrow. I say this to you, and heavily to myself, that 2018 is not to be feared. It is just a year. Just another point in God’s eternity. But since He reigns over time and life and all of the universe, and since He is good, good, good – we have nothing left to fear.

Be grateful. Be faithful. Here’s to a Jesus-filled 2018. ✨

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35‭, ‬37‭-‬39 ESV

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