by Julie Zine Coleman
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18 NASB
Two days before this past Christmas, I took a nasty fall. I tripped on the top step from the garage into the house and fell through the doorway. Smacked my head, right shoulder, and the ribs on my left side HARD. As I lay there, trying to figure out if this was an emergency, one of my first thoughts was How am I going to put on Christmas for 16 people?
I know, not so tragic compared to what some people endured during the holidays. But still…the brunch! And the exhaustion. Pain had me sleeping (or not sleeping) sitting up for the next few nights. Everything was harder as I tried to baby my arm and ribcage while preparing for the Big Day.
Trials, even when sudden, are never really unexpected in light of how frequently they come. But I did recently pause when I came across a verse in my devotional time. Paul was writing to the Romans about their salvation and its benefits. There was much to celebrate—including their trials! Paul said, “We also celebrate in our tribulations” (Romans 5:3 NASB).
I have to be honest; celebration was not on my mind as I lay stunned on the hall floor. Paul had suffered much more than a trip up the stairs before writing Romans. Celebrate? Seriously?
But in his next thought, Paul gives a reason to celebrate even the painfully hard things: “…knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…” (Romans 5:3b – 4 NASB).
Note that Paul does not waste time on the source of the struggle. He focuses on how God will use it in our lives.
The original Greek word translated as tribulation can also be translated as a test. Paul is reminding his readers that there are things we can learn from the test. Perseverance and character are proven, which will all lead to hope.
As a student and then a teacher, I came to appreciate the opportunities a written test gives to the test taker: not just a chance to prove what they know, but to actually develop the students’ understanding. In college and then in seminary, the dreaded Blue Book exams were intimidating. Unlike fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice questions, the essay questions went beyond rote memorization. They required an ability to put those facts together to make educated applications.
As students, on getting back our graded exam, where did we first look? At the ones we got wrong. So tests were another kind of learning experience that corrected any false notions we had. Tests are their own form of education.
Do those trials Paul wrote about serve as that kind of tool for us? You bet they do. While never a pleasant experience, we eventually walk away from a trial knowing God used it in our lives to conform us into a better image of Jesus. Maybe it developed our sensitivity for people in a struggle. Maybe we leaned on God and discovered His faithfulness (even through His silence). Maybe it highlighted our sin, like pride, for example, so that the trial became an opportunity for a course correction. Or maybe we understood on a deeper level our inadequacy to fix everything, then learned to trust God in more things.
God loves us too much to allow us to stay the same. He is at work all the time to draw us closer to Him. He wants us to know Him and love Him with all our hearts. Sometimes the only road that leads us there is through a test.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Julie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at her new website JulieZineColeman.com and Facebook.
Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation. On Purpose was recently named the Golden Scrolls 2022 Book of the Year.
Join the conversation: What did you learn from your latest test?
5 thoughts on “Celebrate What?”
Thank you for this wonderful devotion, Julie. God knew it’s exactly what I needed to start my day.
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I’m so glad. He has a habit of doing just that!!
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I appreciate your words about this, Julie! I’ve been going through tribulations a lot since Tim decided to move us to WY. Lately, it has felt like satanic attack. Which we can pray against! But to rejoice in tribulations? I think that gives us supernatural strength through Christ. Good word!
You are facing no small challenge! But I know God will use it for good, because your heart is turned toward Him. One day you will be able to make sense of it all. He is faithful.
Julie, I so relate to your experience. Last summer while keeping our granddog, Lilly, I fell off a step in our garage (trying to save her from the descending garage door). Actually, the door flew up as I went down. (I forgot it had a sensor). I broke a tooth, bruised ribs, and required surgery for a broken bone in my foot. After six weeks in a boot, and the wheelchair, I gained more compassion for the incapacitated and even more admiration for my husband who took care of me and did everything. Thankfully, I am back to normal, but the Lord has shown me His faithfulness through it all.