September 6, 1991 was a day filled with joy and sadness. We were anticipating the birth of our second child.
It had already been a stressful journey. At my first appointment after finding out I was pregnant; I learned that I was carrying twins. Unfortunately, I miscarried one of the babies a few months later. I battled several health issues which put me on bed rest for the last few months of the pregnancy. It ended with an emergency C-section being performed four weeks before the due date. While we were thankful that Jamie was born healthy, there was sadness that day because of the realization that there should have been two precious babies delivered.
Four days later, on September 10th we went home. We were reunited with our two-year-old son, Drew, who had been staying with my parents during my hospital stay. For the next 16 years we built a life as a family of four, serving the Lord. While we had struggles, our life was also full of hopes and dreams. A life of sacrifices made for our sons to have something better than what we had known. Not just materially better, but spiritually better – something full of hope. At the center of it all was a sold-out determination to put Christ first in everything, no matter how foolish we looked to others.
On May 3, 2008 all of those hopes and dreams were shattered. Our two sons were involved in a fatal car wreck while travelling home from a school event. Our youngest son, Jamie, was killed instantly.
In the months that followed, I found myself struggling for answers – one of which was simply “Lord, what do I do with all this pain?” I found myself struggling with my faith in a way I had never struggled before. As I found myself searching scriptures, trying to find answers to fill the void, there was one word that kept standing out to me. It was the word “Ephraim.”
Ephraim was the second son of Joseph. Ephraim means “fruitfulness.”
The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52, ESV)
Joseph had endured years of heartache. The unimaginable had happened. He was betrayed by his own family. Abandoned. Alone. He was falsely accused, imprisoned and left for dead. Everything he had known and everyone he had loved was stripped from him. Yet, somehow in the very season that should have sucked the life out of him – the season that should have buried him – he became more like Christ.
In Genesis 48 we read about Joseph bringing his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim to his father Jacob to bless before dying. Jacob was ill and his vision was poor. Joseph carefully positioned his sons in a way that would result in the first born (Manasseh) being blessed above the second born son (Ephraim). But a surprising thing happened.
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand towards Israel’s right hand and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh, was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his fathers’ hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one’s the firstborn, put your right hand on his head. But his father refused and said, I know my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations. So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, God make you as Ephraim and as a Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:13-17, ESV)
If you have spent any time in the Old Testament, you know that it’s full of history and tradition. Why would Jacob break tradition and purposely cross his hands to bless Ephraim above Manasseh?
Why would the blessing be: “May God make you like Ephraim AND as a Manasseh?”
Why would fruitful in suffering be the lead blessing and not Manasseh which means, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household?” (Gen. 41:51, ESV)
While getting over a painful past is a wonderful accomplishment, why is being “fruitful in suffering” better than just “forgetting a painful past?”
Maybe when we forget things, sometimes we also cut off that part of our life in order to survive. We hinder our healing when we cut off the people, the places, that trigger the memories of the pain just so we can survive. Maybe being a survivor, being a Manasseh, brings glory to the person. But God wants us to do more than survive – he wants us to thrive.
Whereas, being fruitful in suffering, being an Ephraim, brings glory to GOD—WHO ALONE can give the grace-filled capacity to face the unimaginable and be fruitful in the unimaginable. But a greater glory is to never forget and to let the suffering become the platform for the display of God’s glory. Producing fruit through pain and heartache is a miraculous occurrence that can only spring forth through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
It is clear from studying the life of Joseph that God gave him Manasseh. God gave him the ability to move past the trauma. Otherwise, he would have been a bitter, closed-off person. But this was not Joseph’s legacy at all. In fact, years later because he had let go of the hurt, and he was willing to be used by God in the situations that he faced, he was able to help his own family when famine spread. We aren’t privy to the conversations that Joseph had with the Lord during those years of affliction. But we are able to see glimpses into Joseph’s life during those years. We are able to see that he didn’t wait until all his prayers were answered to trust the Lord.
In my time on this earth, I’ve buried grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, childhood friends and co-workers. After having the miscarriage in 1991, I thought I knew something about grief and loss. But Jamie’s death ushered in a horrific season that I was not prepared for. And since Jamie left us 11 years ago, we have continued to suffer losses of the unimaginable proportion. Grief has left a broad path of destruction in my life and on my family. I’ve found myself thrown into many of the same situations Joseph faced. I’ve watched the landscape of our lives change drastically as everything we’ve known and everyone we’ve loved was stripped away. Every day my heart grieves for family members both living and dead, and I’m sure Joseph did the same.
But also, for the past 11 years, I have kept that message of Ephraim in my heart and prayed over ways in which I could be fruitful in the land of my suffering. I’ve found that, just like He was for Joseph, God has remained faithful to me. And like Joseph I have found that the pain (while it’s still there) no longer controls me. The scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (ESV) In my humanity my eyes see death, loss, brokenness and shattered dreams all around me. But my faith sees Hope. It is a Hope deeply rooted in my love for a man named Jesus. A man who has walked with me through every traumatic heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced since I was a little girl. By clinging to my Hope in Jesus, He’s renewed a passion in me for life that I thought was lost forever. Out of His abundance of grace, He’s blessed me with the grace of Ephraim. The blessing of my brokenness is that it has increased my compassion for others. That compassion motivates me to reach out to help others in need – especially those walking in similar valleys.
Today (September 6, 2019) in honor of what should have been the 28th birthday for our twins (Jamie and the child we never met) we are stepping out into our place of “Ephraim.”
Today Chuck and I are announcing the launching of a new ministry – Ephraim Ministries.
Ephraim Ministries is focused on providing a safe place of support and guidance for families who are dealing with the death of a child. Our desire is to come alongside grieving families and offer encouragement, comfort and hope. To help strengthen them by offering opportunities of education to enable growth and healthy grieving.
To learn more about our ministry and the services we will be offering, please click the Home, About Us and Our Services tabs above on our website.
My Hope Endures,
Laura Holmes, M.A.