Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

It’s popular in Christian circles to say to someone who is going through difficult times, God will never give you more than you can handle. While I write from an Evangelical perspective, I assume that this is quoted in most branches of Christianity. I have said it in the past myself.

But is it true? Is it true that God will never give you more than you can handle?

One caveat here, I also assume that by handle we mean face them in a good and godly way without sinking into despair, questioning our faith, struggling with God, or worse yet, dying. It seems to me that none of these can qualify as handling our trials.

I’ve tried to research where this came from and it seems that most people who have looked into it trace it back to 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Commentators will tell you that the Greek word, here translated as temptation can mean either a trial or a temptation to sin and that is true. So, the question is, which is Paul talking about? Is he talking about a trial that comes into your life or is he talking about a temptation to sin? It makes a difference!

I think that two different episodes in the New Testament help to clarify this issue.

One is the Apostle Paul who face a serious trial in his life that he called his thorn in the flesh. It was so distressing to Paul that three times he asked God to remove it (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Remember that Paul had a long litany of trials – he was shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, thrown into prison, run out of various towns, and in his own words, been exposed to death again and again (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). But he never asked God to remove these from his life.

Whatever his thorn in the flesh was, it was something that he desperately wanted God to remove – but He didn’t. Paul had to live with this trial. There was no way of escape that God had promised for him.

The other example is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed and asked God if it was possible to remove the extreme suffering of the cross that He was about to faced. God didn’t. Jesus endured unbelievable pain and suffering. His only way of escape was death.

My point is that both Paul and Jesus faced tremendous suffering which they asked God to remove it, but He didn’t. It was suffering that they felt they could not endure and in Jesus’ case, He died because of it. There was no way of escape outside of death.

God does not always make the way of escape from the trials of life.

So, 1 Corinthians 10:13 cannot be talking about trials. I believe that this passage is talking about temptations to sin and there is always a way to escape temptations even if it just means running from them.

So back to the original statement: God will never give you more than you can handle.

Yes, God will sometimes give us trials that are more than we can handle, even if (and this should always be true of us) we face them in His strength. I think that this was the Apostle Paul’s testimony when he wrote:  For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).

When someone is suffering, don’t tell them that God will never give you more than you can handle. Tell them that God is present in their suffering and although they, and you, may not understand it, God is working in their lives in some unknown, mysterious way.

The bottom line is, we have to Trust when we can’t explain.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Trusting Bravely in The Darkness

One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is trust. Although we often use the words faith and trust as synonyms, there is actually a difference. As one writer said, trusting is what we do because of the faith we have been given.

We begin the Christian life by trusting in the death of Jesus to save us. And we grow in the Christian faith as we learn to trust God in the various times of life.

In Joshua 1:9, God said to Joshua, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. He was saying, trust Me whatever life throws at you.

The Bible has a lot to say about trust, especially in the Psalms. Just a few examples include Psalm 9:10, Those who know your name trust in you; Psalm 13:5, I trust in your unfailing love; Psalm 20:7, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God; and Psalm 37:3, Trust in the Lord and do good.

The classic passage on the subject is Proverbs 3:5-6 which stresses just how important the issue of trust is. Trust in the Lord with all your heart (all that you are), and don’t lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

God wants us to trust Him all of the time for everything in life. Even in the hard times.

The thing about trust is that you really don’t know the strength of your trust until your trust is tested. It is in the trials of life that the depth of trust is revealed. It is in the darkness that we really learn just how much we trust. What is assumed in the light is often exposed in the darkness.

And that’s why God sometimes puts us in difficult circumstances. Trust demands trials. Without them we really don’t know anything about the strength of our trust.

David McCullough in his excellent biography about the early life of President Theodore Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback, relates what was undoubtedly the darkest day of Roosevelt’s life.

Roosevelt had always had a close relationship with his mother, which only deepened after the death of his father. In October of 1880 he married Alice Lee, the love of his life and the only other woman to whom he gave his love (until a second marriage some years later). These two women, his mother and his wife, were the lights of his life and he could not have been happier.

Until a fateful day in 1884 when tragedy struck. His mother was the first to die of typhoid fever. Alice died eleven hours later in the same house of a kidney disease after giving birth to their only child.

Contemplating the death of his wife some months later he wrote, When my heart’s dearest died, the light went out from my life forever. It was a dark place.

One of Roosevelt’s contemporaries prayed that God would give Roosevelt strength to work bravely in the darkness.

I would like to make a small change to his prayer and pray for you and for me, that when we are in that dark place, that place where we don’t understand what God is doing, when we can’t explain His plan, that He will give us strength to trust Him bravely in the darkness.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

The Weary Christian

If you are trying to live a spiritual life anywhere close to New Testament Christianity, you will experience times of weariness. Weariness with trials. Weariness with trying. Weariness with sin. Weariness with failing. Weariness with ministry. Weariness with fighting off temptations. It comes in all types and sizes.

There are a lot of saints experiencing spiritual fatigue.

If you are one of them, you are not alone (1 Corinthians 10:13). Spiritual weariness has been around as long as people have been around. I’m sure that Job grew weary in his trials. That Noah grew weary of people refusing to listen to his warning of impending judgment (120 years!). That Elijah grew weary when he thought that he was the only one standing up for God. That Peter grew weary with his failure. That Paul grew weary in his travels and trials. That the early Christians grew weary in their persecutions.

If you are a weary Christian, you are in good company.

God did not design the Christian life to be easy. Jesus said, In this world you will have tribulations (John 16:33). Enough tribulation will eventually lead to weariness.

That’s why God promised to give us strength. He gives power to the weary and to those who have no strength He gives strength (Isaiah 40:29). A few verses later the prophet wrote Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

The answer to spiritual weariness is power. Not our power but His Power.

God knew that we would struggle with spiritual fatigue, so He offered to give us His power and His strength. It is only as we live in the power and strength of God that we will be able to overcome spiritual weariness.

In the New Testament we are encouraged with these words: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).

Spiritual weariness is to be expected but it is not to be accepted. As long as we have the power of the risen Lord Jesus available we don’t have to give in.

That power is explained in the words of scripture; sought in prayer; made available by the death of Jesus; and applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit.

It is possible to live in power not in weariness.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve