The Other Side of Pain

Romans 5:3-5 “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Observation: Paul was describing the benefits of righteousness, saying that it is only through Jesus Christ that we can hope to have peace with God, and  reminding us that Christ died for the ungodly. In a literal sense, of course, this includes every one of us, as we are all ungodly until we have been conformed to His image. Then comes a remarkable claim: “We also exult in our tribulations” because from them springs perseverance, which leads to proven character, and, ultimately, hope in the love of God as poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Application: Might there be a bit of hyperbole in Paul’s claim to “exult in tribulations”? Does his language seem a bit exaggerated, even wildly overblown?  Think for a moment about Paul’s perspective as he wrote. He was not presenting some esoteric theory of a new religion, something yet untried. He had already been through considerable trials: beatings, poisonous snakebite, stonings, and shipwreck. And while it’s true that he had not yet come to his physical execution, he could reasonably make the claim that he had indeed died to self. He had already experienced the laying down of his life so as to enter into the life of Christ. 

I can never fully agree with Paul’s outrageous statement prospectively; it is impossible, even madness, to say at the beginning that I exult in tribulation. But once having walked through my fiery trial, having persevered through overwhelming loss, there is then not the slightest exaggeration in claiming to exult in tribulation. 

On the other side of pain, Christ has shown Himself faithful. Beyond the dying process has come a fuller vision of life than could ever have been known had death not intruded. Walking in the midst of such struggle may seem like trying to slog through heavy, wet snow lying deep all ‘round while gale-force winds bite through the heaviest clothing. But on the other side are peace, the warmth of His embrace, and the joy of His “well done” ringing in my ears. I must be encouraged, then, as tribulation seems overwhelming; its outworking will produce unspeakable exultation for what He has brought me through.

Prayer: Father, I have experienced some of what Paul wrote about. Thank You, Lord, for Your matchless reward. Please make me wise enough to remember what I’ve learned when new trials come. Cause me to daily die to self, and to be filled afresh with Your Holy Spirit.

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