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
Hardship and suffering are a common thread of the human experience. Some of us live easier lives than others but there are lots of kinds of pain and everyone has some. The thing that makes us different is how we react to our suffering. Some become wise while others turn bitter. It is very much a function of the direction we are looking.
When one is in the middle of suffering, being self-focused is entirely expected. The fact that Christ was concerned for the welfare of His mother while He was dying on the cross is extraordinary. (See John 19.) But before it was over, even Jesus cried out in thirst.
It is what happens after the suffering that makes all the difference. Some people can’t take their eyes off themselves. They dwell on their suffering and re-experience it over and over. They burn with anger for whomever they blame for it. They invest everything they have to try and avoid more suffering in the future. They worry, and burn, and suffer, and imprison themselves in their own past.
Others can forget. They forgive whoever caused their problems. They accept the peace and joy that followed the easing of their suffering. They don’t worry about what will happen next. As a result they can turn their focus outward. There, in the world outside themselves, they find others in whom they can invest. They find people to whom they can minister.
And as they invest in ministry to others, those investments bear fruit. They get to join the Lord in making a difference in the lives of others. There may be no greater joy, and it all begins with forgetting.