For six years I taught junior high and high school Bible classes at a local Christian school. My favorite days were open forum discussions when, as a class, we considered the students’ questions. Most of the time our discussion ended on some form of “do we really have free will?” We never decided.
Another question we often discussed is “Does God give us more than we can bear?” This idea comes from the Christian platitude you may have heard when someone experiences a terrible event. It is meant to bring comfort. “God will never give you more than you can handle.” This idea seems to come from 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. It reads like this:
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 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.I Corinthians 10:12-13
This passage seems pretty clear. At least to me. When I read it, I learn that I shouldn’t get to full of myself because we are all open to temptation. These temptations are common to humans – that means, we all experience the same things. But don’t be discouraged, God will provide a way out so that I am not obligated to sin.
For some reason, the concept in these verses – God won’t give us more than we can bear – is often used in a context unrelated to temptation. But this passage has nothing to do with how difficult life is or if God gives us more than we can bear, specifically speaking of tragedies that come our way.
I believe life is regularly more than I can handle. And I believe scripture tells me that it will be. Let’s look at a few examples. Jesus’ words to the disciples just before he was crucified plainly speak of the trouble life on earth brings.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.John 16:33
During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me…I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. uJohn 17:12, 15B
But back to the passage in question. What does it say? This passage refers to temptations we face. And it does say that TEMPTATION will come to you, but it will never be more than you can handle. I see here three attributes of temptation we can live by and count on.
First, every temptation I experience is common. There is someone else, past or present, who has experienced the same thing. The enemy wants me to believe that I am unique and different; that people wouldn’t understand if they knew what I struggle with, so I need to keep it quiet and hidden. And it is in this darkness that the seed of temptation germinates and begins to grow, producing sin. (James 1:14-15)
First step in overcoming temptation: spill it to someone you trust!
Secondly, the temptation is not more than you can bear, because God won’t allow it. Now that one seems a bit difficult because temptation always seems so, well, tempting. But, he says it won’t be more than we can bear, perhaps because of the third attribute.
Third, he will ALWAYS provide a way out. It says, “he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Now, as I read that, I see a couple of important ways that I participate in this “way out.” It says he will show you. No one can show me anything if I am not looking.
Have you ever tried to show someone something – a new book, a text message, a picture – and they aren’t looking? You can’t show them! Sometimes with my granddaughter I tell her to look at my eyes so I know she is either seeing what I want to show her or hearing what I want to say.
Many times, I am not looking when Jesus shows me a way out. It might be because I am taken up with fighting off the temptation or because I have sidled up to it and am in the process of getting cozy and I don’t really want to see what he is showing me. Proverbs 19:3 says, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”
Second step to overcoming temptation: Look for the way out!
The other part of he will show you is that once I see the way out, I need to take it. I often think of Joseph when Potiphar’s wife caught him in the house alone. She tried to seduce him into having sex with her. He refused and ran out of the house, leaving his coat behind when she grabbed it to stop him. Genesis 39:10-12
Now that is taking the way out! I call that the Spirit of Joseph and have prayed that over my husband, children, friends, and now you! May you have the Spirit of Joseph to flee every temptation that comes your way regardless of what you lose or leave behind! In Jesus name!
Third step to overcoming temptation: Take the way out!!
I believe it is in this way that there is no temptation beyond our ability to bear because Jesus always provides a way out. But we need to be willing to see it and then take it.
Does life bring hardships beyond our ability to bear? Absolutely! Perhaps you’ve lost your health or your job; maybe death has touched your family or your community. Jesus has said he will never leave you, he is always right there. In addition to the Holy Spirit, he has given us other believers to comfort and walk with us in those times.
Is there ever a temptation we cannot say no to? Absolutely not! It may not be simple, but there is a way out. He intends for us to live in freedom. It might mean simply leaving the section of the store you are in or it might mean gathering together a group of people to be a weekly support team.
This week we are going to explore some more truths about temptation and what it means to live in freedom. I look forward to meeting with you every day!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26