One of the most beautiful and deeply comforting verses I have ever read is Romans 5:5 –
And hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
After writing to the believers in Rome of the awesome power of God revealed in the gospel, and presenting justification as a living experience based on the life of Abraham, Paul here draws a connection between grace and tribulation (vv. 2-3). As we stand in God’s grace, enjoying Him as our portion, we should also be able to boast in tribulation, seeing the trials we pass through as opportunities to know God’s supply.
A number of times, I’ve heard people express frustration with Christian responses to tragedy. After a deeply personal loss, many believers are quick to acknowledge God and thank Him for His comfort. For some, this seems akin to simply denying the full impact of what has happened, cheapening what may be a life-altering event. While this certainly may happen, the testimony of God’s word and Christian experience is that God is the bountiful supply, who does beyond what we can ask or think. He doesn’t simply give us something to meet our needs; He gives us Himself.
Paul was a person who knew tragedy and tribulation. He didn’t run from it. “Weep with those who weep,” he wrote. He wanted the Corinthians to know that he and his co-workers “were excessively burdened, beyond our power, so that we despaired even of living.” Throughout his life, however, he realized and saw the power of God. In Christ, it overcame death itself. In the believers, it overcame his best attempts at persecution and suppression. In him, it changed a sinner into a living son of God. None of these results were the product of denial or simply trying to get through a difficult situation. Instead, they revealed something divine at work.
The note on love of God reads:
The love of God is God Himself (1 John 4:8, 16). God has poured out this love in our hearts with the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, as the motivating power within us, that we may more than conquer in all our tribulations (see note 391 in ch. 8). Therefore, when we endure any kind of tribulation, we are not put to shame.
I am so glad that this note points us to the deepest reality of love – it is God Himself. God has not simply given us a transitory emotion. He has poured out Himself as love into our hearts! This reading, supported by the verses in 1 John, brings us to the principle of God’s dispensing. Later in Romans, Paul will speak of men as vessels (9:23), and throughout his ministry there is the clear thought that man’s highest purpose is to be filled with and express God. What does God’s dispensing look like here? Love poured into our hearts. How does this happen? Through the Holy Spirit. As our experience of the Holy Spirit grows, so does our experience of God’s riches. When we see this, what failure, what trial, what loss can put us to shame? God is our poured-out portion that more than meets any need. As we’ll see in chapter 8, this is all in the context of God’s purpose (8:28). He has called us, justified us, and poured Himself into us.