“Exult in tribulation.” says Romans 5:3. And James joins with Paul, telling us to “count it all joy when you meet various trials” (James 1:2). But how is it possible to do this when life’s adversities inflict real pain and seem to darken our future prospects?
These commands seem nonsensical until we remember that God’s great blessings come to us as we trust in him; and that we learn to trust him as we undergo adversities. So, if adversities teach us to trust God, and if trusting him brings great blessings to our lives, then there is good reason to exult in tribulation and to count it all joy when we fall into various trials.
The following are some of the blessings that come from trusting God”
(1) “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:2). This means that through exercising faith, we experience the more abundant life that Christ came to give us. 1 Peter 1:8 tells us that by maintaining our confidence in Christ in the midst of trials we “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.” It is through faith, through continuing to bank our hope for the future on God’s promises, that Christ dwells in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and we participate in life with the most wonderful Person who ever lived.
(2) Through faith our lives achieve stability. “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established” (2 Chronicles 20:20). God works to provide ways for those who trust him to surmount catastrophes. “The eye of the Lord is upon those who … hope in his gracious kindness, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep their souls alive in famine” (Psalm 33:18–19). Daniel escaped without harm from the lion’s den, “because he had trusted in his God” (Daniel 6:23).
(3) Through faith God works for us, so that great and mighty things are accomplished through our lives. “Commit your way to the Lord and trust in him; and he will act” (Psalm 37:5). “All things are possible to the person who believes (Mark 9:23). God exercises great power in behalf of those who believe (Ephesians 1:19, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:9).
(4) It is through faith that our hearts become cleansed (Acts 15:9). A heart resting in the confidence of what God has promised to do is freed from desires to think and act in shameful ways. Faith makes us the sort of people who help others rather than hurt them. “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith … [Consequently] a large company was added to the Lord” (Acts 11:24).
Therefore, if faith brings such benefits (and Scripture tells of many more), if adversities are essential for learning to trust God more fully, then we can see why we ought to count it all joy when we meet various trials.
Our lives’ objectives must undergo a radical shift in order to exult in tribulation. As long as our objective is to develop confidence derived from ourselves and from things that lie at our disposal, we are going to chafe at tribulation, for it signifies a negation of our powers and resources. But when we are convinced that life is worth living only in the enjoyment of the great benefits God brings to those who are faithful to him, then we will rejoice in tribulation.
Daniel P. Fuller