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24 December 2009

more than we can endure?

Merry Christmas Eve!

A commenter asked a question that I'd like to address. It's not Christmas-related, but I do have a Christmas post in the works, so stay tuned for that. Cool new perspective on the angels' message to the shepherds.

Without digressing further, here's the question:

Could you comment on the phrase "God doesn't give us things that we can't handle." I have alot of trouble wrapping my brain around that...I see people with things they can't handle all the time. I would appreciate a pastor's perspective when you have time.

This is very important to address, because I believe it's a source of great misconception. I think of that phrase in the same sort of way that I think of "God helps those who help themselves." There is truth to it, but the statement is usually pulled out of its Scriptural context.

The phrase you're talking about is taken from 1 Corinthians 10:13: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (NLT)

Paul was directly talking about a believer giving in to temptation. He specifically says beforehand to avoid arrogance in how strong we think we are against temptation (verse 12). He follows it up by saying to flee from idolatry (verse 14). So the statement you refer to is talking about the temptations we're presented with; it's not saying that no trouble will come our way that's too difficult to bear. I wish I didn't have to say that, but it's true.

I think that Job is one of those who had just about as much heartache as was possible for a man to bear without "cracking." But we read many accounts of God allowing people to be taken past what we'd think of as the point of their ability to hold up. Samson comes to mind, as does David with the death of his and Bathsheba's first child. In the face of danger and possible harm, Peter denied that he knew Christ. It's arguable that this wasn't really beyond his ability to bear, but it appears that the situation was too much for him at that point in his life, and he gave in.

I see in the Word and in practice today that God allows things to happen to us that do, indeed, seem beyond our ability to "bear." But I also see that He does this so that His children will learn to rely on Him -- to build us stronger and stronger.

Paul sums this up perfectly in his next letter to the believers at Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: "We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead." (NLT, emphasis mine)

Send me an e-mail at and I'd consider it a privilege to talk with you about whatever is going on. Will be praying for you in the meantime.


Leroy said...

Most people would plunge into a depression-leading-to-death or take their own life if they experienced what Job did. Does that (circumstances leading to death) become the definition of "more than we can bear"? Is there a time factor involved?

Looking back, it's easy to see situations where God is the only answer for me making it through something. Sometimes it was "quick and easy", sometimes it wasn't.

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