This statement, God won’t give you more than you can handle, is one that often gets tossed out whenever anyone is struggling. It is like a panacea, it will fix anything. However, the truth is, this statement can do more harm than good. You see, the Biblical basis for this statement is somewhat limited in scope. Let’s see what we can learn about this statement.
Where Does The Statement Come From?
Well, it comes from the Bible, of course. Most people are probably thinking of 1 Corinthians 10:13 when they make this statement. This verse says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” God will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. Tempted. Yet this statement seems to get applied to much more than simple temptation. Perhaps we need to understand what temptation means.
The Greek word we translate as temptation means to test or prove something. It is used to describe an experiment. We have to understand that every temptation, while not having its source in the nature of God, does have its purpose found in God. He desires to prove that our faith in Him is real. Unfortunately, Satan also desires to prove something through every temptation. He desires to prove that we are failures, bringing discredit upon God. We see, then, that this word can certainly be used to describe much more than ‘simple’ temptation. Any trial or difficulty could be encompassed by this word. However, the context of this passage relates to purposeful temptation to participate in pagan activity. The Corinthian church was debating the status of Christians participating in various aspects of pagan temple worship. So Paul’s use of this word seems to apply to this specific meaning.
Does God Really ‘Test’ Our Faith?
Well, let’s look at two examples. The first is found in Genesis 22:1, “Some time later God tested Abraham…”. The Hebrew word we translate as tested means to test something in order to prove its value or worth. It is to put something to a trial. This verse is very specific. God was going to put Abraham’s faith to a trial. He wanted to determine the character of Abraham’s faith.
We also see this in a verse in the New Testament. In James 1:2-3 we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” We see here the word trial in Verse 2. This is the same Greek word that was translated as temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here we see that trials, or temptations, are used to test the character of our faith.
In other words, God absolutely can, and at times does, put our faith to the test.
So, God can and will test us. He can use temptations that are brought upon us by the world, by Satan. He can also use trials, or difficult circumstances. What options do we have? When we face trials or temptations we only have two options. We will either respond in faith and bring glory to God, or we will respond in sin and bring discredit to His name.
We also have some wonderful promises. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we see three promises. The first is a promise that God is faithful. We have been told in Scripture (numerous passages) that God will never leave us nor forsake us. God’s promises are all true, He is faithful to keep His promises. We will not walk through any trial or temptation alone. Second, we are told that whatever we are facing is something that is “common to man.” In other words, we don’t have to look at everything we face as a Satanic plot against us. Somethings happen to us just because we live in a fallen world. Illnesses and natural disasters strike everyone. Thirdly, none of these trials or temptations are more than we can bear…as long as we understand the unwritten condition in this promise. It is written to those who already know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This promise only applies to someone who is faithful in their relationship with the Lord. If you are separated from God by sin, then all bets are off. Finally, there is the last promise that the Lord will always make a way of escape from every temptation that we face. I think this is speaking, specifically, about the temptation to sin. It isn’t talking about trials or difficult circumstances. You see, we always have the option of running away from those things that would lead us into sin. That’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:14.
How we handle temptation speaks volumes about the character of our faith. When we choose to flee from temptations we bring glory to God. When we choose to hang around and see how far we can go…we bring discredit to our Lord. The choice is ours.
All Bible quotes are from The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.