Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from Scripture
Rom. 12.12b – be patient in tribulation
How does God want to be loved? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Its a good one. It reveals how deeply we’ve thought about our relationship with Him. Is it reciprocal? We can look at the Cross and begin immediately to get some grasp of His love for us. But how do we measure in any meaningful way, our love for Him? How are we to go about the business of loving God?
Last time, we saw that one way (taken from our text) is to rejoice in hope. God loves to be believed, taken at His word. But our text doesn’t end there. It gives us a second insight to what God enjoys in love from his children – he loves to be TRUSTED. Hence we read the words before us today – “be patient in tribulation.”
In a passage all about love being genuine (see 12.9), what is loving about being patient in tribulation? Well, if it were in terms of loving others, not a whole lot. But the focus in verses 12 and 13 is not about others – people, it is about God Himself. Rejoicing in hope may in fact serve to encourage others. In that way it may be loving toward them. But that seems more a by-product than the direct consideration of Paul. Just as rejoicing in hope directly relates to how seriously we take God’s promises – believe Him, so being patient in tribulation does as well. For when we are going through trials of various sorts, the FIRST person who suffers from our impatience is God Himself. If Paul were trying to tell us to be patient toward others in tribulation, he probably would have used a different word here – makrothumia – which means long-suffering with others. Instead, he uses a word which indicates patience with the circumstances themselves. In which case, the patience is directed toward the Lord of the circumstances, toward Divine Providence.
To be patient in tribulation as an act of love then, is to be patient toward God, and that, in trusting His character. Just as rejoicing in hope expresses our believing His promises as concretely real, so trusting that our Lord cannot sin against us, cannot fail us, cannot devise evil against us, cannot ignore our pain or suffering, cannot – apart from ceasing to BE God do or allow anything into our lives but what bears the imprint of His infinitely wise hand in administrating infinite love toward His own.
When we cannot see the whys and wherefores. When we are filled with doubt and confusion. When all around us, circumstances are not only adverse, but painful and inexplicable – God delights in our love toward Him when we KNOW that He is ours and we are His, and His character removes all doubt that He might somehow be less than perfect and loving toward us in all ways. He loves to be trusted by His people. To have it beyond all doubt in our minds that there is even an iota of a possibility that He could be anything toward us but all loving, all wise, all good, all gracious, all merciful and all holy.
And just as before, when these are the forgone conclusions of our hearts and minds, when we relate to Him on this basis – WE begin to lavish in the fullness of His love. We are filled, as we love Him in return.