Have you ever heard a Christian say that God won’t give you something you can’t handle? It’s a nice, cozy idea in theory but it quickly clashes with real life.
What about my two Christian friends who committed suicide? Should they have been able to “handle” it according to this reasoning? And what about all the families I know who are reeling in the wake of unanswered prayers for a child who died? Are they being punished because God knows they can “handle” such a tragic trial? Or what about my personal battle with anxiety and depression? Am I failing to “handle it” when I turn to a counselor for help?
While the idea that God won’t give you more than you can handle is taken from a scripture (1 Cor. 10:13), that’s not what that scripture actually says. Church people have twisted this verse into a feel-good platitude when there’s a lot more going on.
A Promise For Help And Protection
In this part of 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking about what we can learn from Israel’s history. He talks about how Christ interacted with the ancient Israelites, the ways they displeased and tempted God, and the punishments they received (1 Cor. 10:1-10). Then he writes,
Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.
No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:11-14, WEB)
The Greek word translated “temptation” is peirasmos (G3986). It means a trial or “putting to the test” of a person’s character. When used of God, it means proving someone by bringing them “through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him.” When used of the devil, it means he’s soliciting someone to sin for the purpose of making them fall (Zodhiates’ Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the NT).
In context, the verse we’re talking about isn’t a promise that God won’t give you more than you can handle on your own. It’s a promise that He won’t let you be in a situation where your fall into sin becomes inevitable. He never sets us up to fail.
Help To Get Through
The Bible doesn’t say God won’t give you more than you can handle. It says that He won’t “allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will” provide an escape so you can endure it. The word translated “endure” is hupophero (G5297). It means to bear up under a thing placed on one’s shoulders. Metaphorically, it means patient endurance.
God doesn’t promise that there won’t be trails or temptations, or that we won’t have burdens that are hard to bear. It’s rather the opposite, in fact. Jesus said, “in the world you will have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, WEB). We have hope, not because we’re promised an easy life, but because we’re promised help getting through the life we have.
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30, WEB)
The rest Jesus offers is one that heals our souls, not one that takes away our struggles. Yokes are something used for work, not something you take a nap in. They’re put on an animal’s or person’s shoulders to make hauling, pulling, or carrying things easier. The reason Jesus’ yoke can be described as “easy” is because he’s yoked together with us, helping us handle the burdens of life.
Things We Can’t Handle Alone
God won’t put you in a situation that you can’t walk through faithfully with His help. But He does give us plenty of things that we couldn’t handle on our own. We’re not meant to be self-sufficient. In fact, that’s one of the first lessons we should learn when we seek a relationship with God — that we can’t do anything on our own. Even Jesus said when He lived as a human, “I can of myself do nothing” (John 5:30). We can’t earn salvation, we can’t make ourselves righteous, and we can’t win spiritual battles without God’s help.
This is one of the key truths people miss when they say God won’t give you more than you can handle. Of course He does! How else would we know we need Him if we didn’t face things we can’t do alone? Facing overwhelming trials is normal for Christians. Paul, for example, faced something he called “a thorn in the flesh … a messenger of Satan to torment me.” He didn’t want to deal with it and “begged the Lord three times” to take it away. He got this response:
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10, WEB)
Help Others Through
We need to stop shaming other Christians for needing help. God doesn’t. In fact, He welcomes the chance to be more involved in our lives when we turn to Him for aid. So rather than share empty assurances that “you can handle it,” we should look for ways to imitate God and actually help other people.
Back in 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes that temptations will come with a way of escape that makes it possible to endure. Have you ever thought that you might be that way of escape for someone?
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2, WEB)
When I last wrote about this verse back in 2014 ( click link here to read), this is what I focused on. Christ’s body, the church, is supposed to work together and build itself up in love (Eph. 4:16). Every individual supplies something that can help edify the whole and also build up other individuals. Sometimes we need others and sometimes we must be there for others.
God will let you face situations that you can’t handle alone. But He won’t leave you alone to face them and He never sets you up to fail. We might not always understand why God lets some people go through such overwhelming trials. However, He will be there with you, guiding you through and working things out for good in the end. And He can put people in your life to help as well, but that means His people have to be ready and willing to help each other. We have to pay attention to our brethren and maintain relationships so we know how to be there for them.