Romans 12:9-12. Let love be genuine…be patient in tribulation.
There are many things in our lives that are hopeless. (When I say “hopeless” I mean there is not much chance, if any, of the situation changing. There is no promise in scripture declaring that it will go away this side of Heaven). There are many things in our lives that are never going to change, things that we will never get better at, and things that will never get better. There are burdens that we must carry. Some of these are “smaller” things (work difficulties, family trials), others are much bigger (death, disease, infertility, mood disorders, sin and temptation, war, poverty, etc.).
For example, in my life there are physical struggles, aches and pains, that will most likely never end. There are spiritual temptations that I will probably face until I die. I don’t expect my struggle with depression and anxiety to just disappear. I have lost family and friends to the sting of death. Your list is probably similar or even more intense.
But these are earthly things. They are not eternal things. They are “hopeless” in this life. But they are not our ultimate Hope. They are what Paul calls here in Romans 12:12 tribulations.
Tribulation (thlipsis): affliction, pressure, impossible to escape or control.
Patient (hypomeno): to remain under, to carry like a burden, to not run away from, to endure.
Look at Paul’s other uses of these words:
Romans 5:3-5. but we rejoice in our sufferings (thlipsis), knowing that suffering (thlipsis) produces endurance (hypomone). 4 and endurance (hypomone) produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love (agape) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 8:35. What shall separate us from the love (agape) of Christ? Shall tribulation (thlipsis), or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
1 Corinthians 13:7. Love (agape) endures (hypomeno) all things.
How do we survive the hopeless situations of life? The answer is with hope. We must see beyond the hopeless things in this earthly life to what gives us everlasting hope, Jesus Christ and his love.
Look again at the verses above. See how Paul connects patient endurance (hypomone) through tribulations (thlipsis) to love (agape)?
- Our thlipsis produces hypomone because God’s agape has been poured into our hearts.
- No thlipsis can separate us from God’s agape.
- Agape hypomenos all things (every thlipsis).
The Princess Bride: Wesley hypomenos his thlipsis for the cause of agape.
These three passages are all indicatives. What has been done for us. Truths to rest in.
But Romans 12:12 is an imperative. What we must do. Loving actions we must take.
The imperative of Romans 12:12 is that our genuine love must be patient in tribulations. But how are we supposed to do that? How do we love even in the situations of life that will never get better, never go away, and from which there is no earthly escape? Why would God even ask us to entertain such a thing? Why would we be asked to endure such hopeless pressure?
The answer is “because we can because of love.” We can because we have ultimate hope. We have eternal love. We have everlasting life. The truth is that there IS an escape. And that escape is our death and resurrection, just like it was for Jesus himself.
You see, when you believe that there is a next life full of love. When you believe that your death is not the end. When you believe that you will be resurrected unto eternal life. You can endure anything. You can bear the burden. You can withstand the pressure.
And not in a fake hypocritical way. Remember, this is genuine love. Not fake love. Our genuine love is rooted in God’s genuine love for us. So we don’t have to “put up” with life. Yes, it’s very hard. But it’s not the end. It’s a journey to a final destination. It’s a suffering unto glory.
Hebrews 12:2. looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured (hypomone) the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Christ endured the thlipsis of the cross because his eyes were on the joy to follow. He endured. He didn’t run away. He didn’t reject the sorrow. He didn’t let the hopelessness of life keep him from true hope. His genuine love for you bore that burden to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What are your eyes on? Are you looking to Jesus? Are you focused solely on your trial? Or are you letting your hopeless trial give you hope? The hope of “to live is Christ?” Are you plotting your escape? Are looking to run away? Are you convinced that you can’t carry the burden for one more second? Look to Jesus. Remember that he already carried it for you. Find strength in your weakness today through his strength. Let his love for you empower your love for others. Let the hope of Christ’s life in you empower your genuine love for the world.