Tribulations – This is not a word used regularly in our vocabulary unless we are speaking of end times. But it is word we should become familiar with since tribulations are part of life, things that happen to us because we live in a corrupt world. We can bring them on ourselves, others can cause them, or sometimes Satan brings them into our lives. But no matter the source we can be assured tribulations will come and make no mistake – there is never a sense of “good” in the meaning of tribulation because all tribulation causes suffering, distress, and pressure.
In fact, the meaning of the word in Greek is associated with the pain a woman experiences in child-birth. What an excellent illustration to paint since there is no comparison to natural child birth pain. Today women in labor are given several options to minimize or alleviate pain through the use of medications or epidurals. But if a woman decides to go through labor and delivery naturally without these helps she will experience intense suffering making her want to crawl out of her body if possible. The pain and pressure is all-encompassing and there is a sense it will never end but it does… and a child is born! Tribulations in life are much the same: Immeasurably painful and seemingly unending but…they should end and then…something is born!
The Bible tells us “what” is born as a result of tribulation in Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Giving birth to a child entails much suffering and distress but we glory in the process knowing there is a baby at the end! We do not give glory for the pain but for the reward of conquering the pain. If there were a natural painless way to give birth we would undoubtedly choose that over the pain of childbirth. In the same way, we receive the revelation in this verse that we glory “in” tribulations not “for” tribulations because there is a beautiful end result. If there was another way to develop perseverance, character, and hope, we would undoubtedly choose that route over tribulations, but knowing and embracing the true role tribulation plays in a Spirit-filled life enables us to face them, glory in them, and celebrate the result.
To “glory” in something means to boast or rejoice in it. Unfortunately, many Christians boast “of” their tribulations whereas the Word does not tell us to boast of tribulations but to boast “in” the midst of them. Simply put; we are not to give credit through boasting “to” the tribulation for making us stronger, but we rejoice in Christ Jesus in the midst of distress knowing something better is coming. It is not the actual tribulation which strengthens us but Christ in us which strengthens us. We may think this is only a matter of semantics but acknowledging the distinction allows us to place our attention in the proper place – in Jesus, the Author and the One who perfects our faith. We glory in Christ Jesus even while “in” tribulation!
When a child is born we immediately begin to boast about the baby, how beautiful he/she is, the miracle of birth, the hair or lack of hair, their dimples or eyes or mouth, and the unique cry – we glory in the child! We do not brag about the pain and suffering (the tribulation) the mother just persevered. We rejoice in the fact that in the midst of pain and suffering we have been given a reward. We glory in the end result not in the pain and suffering. I have been privileged to pray and be with several women during childbirth including my own daughters. There are few things as special as witnessing them cry out “Jesus” in the midst of the intense tribulation and watch His strength carry them through. That is what it means to glory in tribulations! If our thoughts and attention are fixed on tribulation, we give “it” the glory, rather than glorifying our King of Glory, who alone enables us to persevere and remain steadfast. God wants all the glory. He is a jealous God. He would have no other god or thing receive glory in the lives of His children. Therefore, if we say tribulations make us stronger, I believe God is saying, “What about Me? I am the One who makes you stronger.”
If we view tribulations from God’s perspective we see them as PRODUCERS – of perseverance, character, and hope! The Word is very clear! They do not produce faith. They do not produce purity in us. They do not produce strength. They produce perseverance. When presented with various tribulations in life we are to glory throughout their existence because we know we should and can persevere which is a necessary character trait when walking with the Lord. Once perseverance is produced and established, approved character is developed and produced, then hope is produced which will not disappoint us. Let’s face it: One of the reasons we see depression, suicide, violence, abuse, and even homicide prevalent in American society is because people are consistently disappointed having no hope. Godly hope happens BECAUSE His love is poured into us! Stop and ponder that for a moment. True and Godly hope happens because of His love! Without His love, we are guaranteed disappointment without hope! If we back track these verses, because the love of God is poured out to us by Holy Spirit we have hope which comes out of a developed character which was formed through perseverance produced by tribulation. This is God’s formula for hope! Anything else ends in hopelessness.
Understanding perseverance keeps the production line moving. We are to persevere through tribulations not simply endure. There is a difference and it is important to know what it is. To persevere means to be steadfast and persist in something. The Dictionary defines it: to continue in some effort or course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition; to be steadfast in purpose; persist. There is a sense of reward after successful perseverance and like childbirth, there is an end if we persist.
Endurance on the other hand is simply the act of enduring which means to hold out, harden, tolerate, and hold up under pain or fatigue; to stand and bear; or to put up with something. Endurance is not a bad thing, in fact it is a very good thing for certain situations. But endurance suggests the situation remains no matter what you do and your part is to simply put up with the situation. When it comes to tribulations we do not only want to hold up; we want to persevere through them, literally we want to persist until we overcome. We want to leave the tribulation (pain, distress) far behind once hope has been produced.
We cannot expect to be full of hope if we have not persevered through a situation. People say things like, “I hope it all works out.” According to the Word of God hope does not just happen. It is produced meaning to make, create, bear, or yield. Producing anything takes time. Therefore, hope is only created through character development, and character is only produced through perseverance, and perseverance is produced through tribulation. This is a process, and we cannot skip over one part of the process and then expect to be full of hope in any given situation.
If you are going through tribulation at the present time – Praise God! He is working something in you because His love has been poured into your heart! But make sure you glory in God in the midst of tribulation!
I pray we all find ourselves embracing this process, persevere in tribulation, achieve the character of God, and frolic in the hope that comes because His love is lavishly poured out to us by Holy Spirit who has been GIVEN to us!