I recently read two separate articles that said this verse is inaccurate or at least grossly misinterpreted: “God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are can endure.” The example used was that Christians who commit suicide were obviously given a trial they couldn’t bear on their own, and they needed outside help. But does needing help from other people really invalidate this scripture, or is there something else going on?
Faithful to Help
The phrase quoted above is just a piece of a sentence in 1 Corinthians. Let’s look at the whole verse to get some context.
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. (1 Cor. 10:13)
First we see the idea that no matter how alone or oppressed we feel, we’re not being given trials greater than that which is common to man — someone else, somewhere, has gone through something similar. This includes other human beings, of course, but it also includes Jesus Christ.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)
Not only are trials like ours held in common with other people, but our Lord and Savior went through similar temptation and sufferings. One of the main reasons He did that was so that He could understand what we’re going through and offer His aid. As it says in 1 Cor. 10:13, “God is faithful,” and He will do that for us.
Secondly, we see that the promise which says God won’t let us be tempted beyond our endurance comes with an explanation for how He will do that. It’s not just that God protects us from trials unless we can get through them by gritting out teeth and pushing forward on our own. He “will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
This “way of escape” is intriguing. The wording implies intervention by God to create “escapes” for us in our trials, and action necessary on our part to take the offered escape. I imagine this sort of thing will look very different depending on the type of trial and who is going through the trial. Sometimes it may be what we think of as a literal escape, with the trial or temptation coming to an end. Or it could be that something changes to make the trial bearable. I’m sure we’ve all known someone with a long standing trial (like illness or chronic pain) who still has peace and joy in their lives.
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. …And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7, 19)
Do we trust God to truly do this, to give us every thing we need in every circumstance? People will say something like, “well, that’s not true. You can’t just go through life with an ‘I don’t need anything but God” attitude. We need other people.” True to a certain extent, but where do you think those other people come from?
Good friends — the people you can really talk with about anything and go to when you need help — are rare. We call them a blessing. So when we have people like this in our lives, I’d say that comes under God supplying all our needs, including our need for companionship. Perhaps sometimes the “way of escape” so we’re able to bear a trial comes in the form of another person. It could be a friend, or someone you barely know. Maybe it’s a therapist or a minister to offer counsel. Perhaps it’s a brutally honest sibling to knock some sense into you (hopefully not literally).
I’ve been on the receiving end of this from someone I’d only just met. I was at a church-sponsored weekend and feeling particularly vulnerable emotionally. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my heartache, but apparently not, because a girl I’d been introduced to barley two days ago sought me out the last evening to ask what was wrong. The story spilled out and I started crying. Then she prayed aloud for me. It was incredible — I felt God’s Spirit present in a way unlike I’d ever felt before. That wasn’t the conclusion of that trial, but it did mark the escape for climbing out of it and back towards God.
When God sends us someone to help us through a trial, we should be careful not to push them away. But this works from both sides. We can also be the person who is provided by God to offer help.
Being a Blessing
Have you ever considered that? When we’re talking about trials, I think we’re more often inclined to think of how someone else can help us than how we can help other people. But if we expect that we’re going to benefit from the comfort and help of other believers, we should also expect that God wants to use us to help them.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4)
We’re supposed to be looking after our brethren, building them up, making sure they’re okay, and being sure to offer real encouragement and help rather than empty platitudes when they need aid.
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)
It is similarly un-helpful (and can even be harmful) to just slap a scripture on someone’s emotional wounds and walk away. Saying, “God will supply all your needs” or “don’t worry, He won’t give you anything you can’t endure” isn’t any help unless we’re willing to be used by God to supply those needs by listening to them, praying with and for them, and keeping in touch with them.
Example of Love
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Love – agape – within the church is the sign that we are followers of Christ. That’s how important it is to have self-sacrificing love that seeks the good of others. Romans 12:1 talks of us presenting ourselves as “a living sacrifice.” We can look at the life of Jesus Christ to see a perfect example of what it means to live as a sacrifice in service to God. Have you ever noticed how much of His ministry involved helping other people? Pretty much all of it. And now He tells us that we and every one of our fellow believers are highly valued as His own temple and body “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
If we’re going to claim that level of importance in God’s eyes, we must see others in the same light. Do we treat other people as if Christ is living in them? and we have to do this for our brethren whether or not we think it looks like Christ is in them. If we’re being honest, we know that we’ve also been seen doing things that are not Christ-like. We must be forgiving toward others if we want to be forgiven (Matt 6:12, 14-15). Really, we’re left without any good excuses for not helping others when we see them in need. If we’re following Jesus Christ, we will be loving and serving other people as much as possible. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.
So to answer the question that is the title of this post, I believe God does not let us go through trials or temptations that it is impossible for us to bear. They might not turn out the way we expect them to, but if we stay close to God we will turn out the way He expects us to. He will send us escapes and aid, and will open our eyes to recognize His help. And sometimes we’ll have the chance to follow Jesus’ example and be used by God to help another person.