Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Over the next few months, I want to go over a few slogans, or cliches, that we often hear in the Christian church. The first that I would like to examine is the saying, “God isn’t going to give you more than you can handle.”
First, let’s ask the question: where did this saying come from? The saying comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Often this phrase, “God isn’t going to give you more than can handle,” is used to comfort someone who is suffering, seeing little hope left, and growing weary and impatient. The saying is often used to encourage someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, dig deep, and find the strength to carry on. However, the context of 1 Corinthians 10 is not about suffering in general, but sin, specifically idolatry and sexual immorality. Paul is telling the people not to use the freedom of the forgiveness of sins as a license to engage in sin, and fall into temptation haphazardly thinking all will be well because I love to sin and Jesus loves to forgive. He comforts the Corinthians with the promise that no temptation to sin has overtaken them that isn’t common to man. There’s support for them in their temptation in their brothers and sisters in Christ. And on top of all that, God will not allow His people to encounter temptation that is beyond their ability to resist or escape. God will always give you an out from temptation. The one who is tempted to sexual immorality, such as pornography, has the escape of turning off the computer, finding the company of their spouse, friends, or brothers or sisters in Christ, or seeking the help of counselling and private confession and absolution.
But in terms of suffering, we find that God does indeed give us more than we can bear. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says this: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” (1:8) This certainly doesn’t sound like someone who feels like God didn’t give him more than he could handle. This is the man who confesses that God gave him more than he can handle in life and he continues saying, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (1:9) God sometimes gives you more than you can handle to beat your pride, your trust in your strength, wisdom, and might, to convince you that you’re weak. Unable to find relief, comfort, and hope in yourself, and finding only strength, hope, and life comes from God who sent His Son into the flesh to save you by His own suffering and death on the cross. As God tells Paul later in this same letter, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (12:9) Not to say that your weakness suddenly disappears, or that you have new confidence in yourself and your abilities, but you realize that you are still weak, but that your God is even stronger than your weakness and your suffering. He will deliver you, just as He delivered His Son through suffering and into life everlasting. He’s powerful, even though you are not. God will sometimes give you more than you can handle, but do not fear. Nothing that He gives you is greater than He can handle.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider