Picture this. You are riding your moped at 5:45 in the morning. It is COLD!!! A balmy 34 degrees with wind chill, you are sure that your hands will never work again, they are so numb. When you arrive at your destination 20 minutes later, your fingers are so stiff you can’t get your helmet off.
This was me this morning. When I left the meeting at 8:15, the temperature had only increased by 2 degrees. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to put my helmet back on. I wanted an easy way out. I wanted to make the cold go away and to have a car with a heater. Maybe I’m a little melodramatic. But seriously, what made me get back on my scooter and keep going? The hope of the sunrise. The unshakeable knowledge that it would rise and bring warmth with it. The faith in my weather app that said it would be 60 today.
Romans paints a picture of this for us.
“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.” Romans 5:3-5
Why do we go through hard times? Why do we endure situations that try our patience? Why get back up and keep going and not just find an “easier way”? The hope of heaven. The unshakeable knowledge that this is only temporary. The faith in Jesus Christ who promises us a mansion in heaven and intercedes for us along the way.
Strong’s defines tribulation as pressing together, pressure; metaphorically – oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.
The definition alone makes one want to hide under the bed and not venture out. Tribulation is those hard days. They are seasons that are hard. Sometimes long, sometimes short; they bring the press of life. But what is the purpose of them?
Perseverance. Again, Strong’s helps us better understand this word, defining it as steadfastness, constancy, endurance, the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings, patiently, and steadfastly waiting for, sustaining.
So, those cold mornings before the sunrise work a steadfastness that helps Christians hold on during the hard times. The trials work an unswerving spirit into us that refuses to be deterred from its purpose. Who doesn’t want that? Everyone wants the strength that says, “I made it through, though I have scars, I am stronger for it.”
Character – in the Old King James this word is translated experience. Strong’s digs a little deeper: proving, approved, tried character, a specimen of tried worth.
Trials lead to endurance, which in turn makes a ‘specimen of tried worth’, proving character and building into our hearts the Kingdom of God. This leads to hope that does not disappoint. Hope that is unshakeable, given to us by the Holy Spirit, that this is not our home. Life is temporary. We are here only in training for heaven. This alone lends the courage to learn through the tough times and let the Lord do His work in our hearts.