When You’re Crushed Like Dust

Have you ever felt like your spirit is crushed and your heart broken? Like you’ve been pounded into dust or smashed to smithereens?

Those are the definitions for the Hebrew words shabar (H7665, broken) and dakka (H1793, crushed). I bring them up because I want to talk about this verse from Psalms:

Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. (Psalm 34:18, WEB)

When you’re ground down like dust and broken into pieces, God is there beside you. We often want Him to prevent or remove bad things but it seems that in most cases His preference is to walk with us through hardship rather than stop it from ever happening. We are promised deliverance, but in His timing, not ours.

Suffering and Deliverance

Let’s read some of the context for this verse (you can click here to read the whole Psalm).

The righteous cry, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19, WEB)

It’s clear from this psalm that righteousness doesn’t exempt us from bad situations. In fact, “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and they have to cry to Yahweh for deliverance. That holds true for believers throughout the ages.

I endured those persecutions. The Lord delivered me out of them all. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:11-12, WEB)

Here’s Paul, centuries after David, expressing the same truths. Those who follow God must expect to endure afflictions and persecutions, but they can also expect deliverance. Read more

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When God Gives You Something You Can’t Handle

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

When God Gives You Something You Can't Handle | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Jantanee via Lightstock

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. Read more

Even If You Don’t: Holding On To Hope In Dark Times

We know God can do anything. So how do you react when He doesn’t do something that you beg him to? When your loved one isn’t healed? When your heartbreak feels unbearable and then something else piles on top of that? When you just don’t know how to go on, yet you have to anyway?

I’ve been going through a rough patch emotionally, especially over the past few weeks but really for a few months now. And I feel like God has thrown me some songs as “lifelines” in this time. First it was “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe and more recently it was “Even If” by MercyMe.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I didn’t much want to sing this when it popped into my head. Actually, I couldn’t at first since all I remembered was the “But even if you don’t” line. But I looked the song up, grasping for some hope to anchor my soul, and after playing through it a few times I could breath and pray again. I’ll admit, though, that there was still a part of me crying out, “Why?” when I thought about Him choosing not to take away the sorrow and hurt. And it’s okay to do that. As my counselor said, God is big enough to handle it when His kids are frustrated with Him.

Hope is one of the key things that gets us through the times when we’re frustrated with God and don’t understand what He’s doing. And it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough. Paul tells us “faith, hope and love remain”  (1 Cor. 13:13, WEB). They’re all three virtues that aren’t going away, but we talk about faith and love a whole lot more than hope. Which is a shame, because hope is something that’s very much needed in this world. Read more

God Won’t Let You Fight Alone

It’s easy to talk about trusting God when things in our lives are going well. It’s harder to recognize His presence when it feels like life is falling apart all around us. In times like that, we need reminders that God will not abandon us in our fights and that He will fight for us.

Several weeks ago, we talked about claiming God’s promises. There’s quite a few made in the pages of our Bibles, and that post only covered His promise to give the holy spirit, to be friends with those who love Him, and to hear when we call on Him. And even after adding another post about the promises in Psalm 91 we just barely scratched the surface of this topic.

One of the promises in Psalm 91 is about God’s protection in the midst of trials. Sometimes He doesn’t take us out of a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, but rather brings us through it. God doesn’t intend to coddle us. He wants us to be thriving and growing and overcoming. He knows we need a shelter and provides that, but He also wants to give us courage to keep going as well.God Won't Let You Fight Alone | marissabaker.wordpress.com

He Won’t Let You Down

When Moses addressed the Israelites before appointing Joshua as his successor, he reminded them that their human leader isn’t really the one who takes care of them. The Lord God is the one who fights for them and who they must obey. He then shares a promise from God:

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or scared of them; for Yahweh your God himself is who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, WEB)

Later, the Lord personally reiterates this promise to Joshua (Josh. 1:5). And we know the promise extends beyond Joshua and the Israelites because the writer of Hebrews tells us we can be emboldened by the Lord’s promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5, KJV).

Though “leave” and “fail” seem quite different in English, the Greek word used in Hebrews is actually a perfect translation for the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy. Both words mean “to let sink,” as if you’d been holding something up and then let it go (H7503, raphah and G447, aniemi). In modern terminology, we would say that God promises not to let you down. Read more

Grief, Guilt, and Comfort for the Saint

Today’s guest post is by Dani Fisher of A Vapor In The Wind. We met when she contacted me in response to my project about Christianity and MBTI types and I’m thrilled to have her sharing on this blog today.

There are five stages of grief—denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Maybe you are familiar with these stages. If you have suffered any sort of traumatic life event or loss, you know these stages do not necessarily appear in this order. I would add one more stage to this whole process of grief—guilt. While in every big or small scenario of grief, guilt is not necessarily present, I would argue that when it comes to the loss of a loved one, there is always some manifestation of guilt. There is always something you regret, no matter how wonderful your relationship with your loved one might have been. This was my experience and for a long time I was unsure of what to do with my regret, how to respond to it and how to carry it.

When my brother died, one of the first things my father said was, “We have no regrets.” He was right. By all objective standards, my family had no regrets in the life and death of my younger brother. My brother was an exceptional seventeen-year-old. He had a good relationship with his parents and siblings. I would contend that “good” does not do justice to the friendship my brother and father shared. The name Benjamin means “son of my right hand” and Ben fulfilled his name in every respect – he was my father’s right hand man. My brother was full of joy and ambition. He possessed one of the greatest servant-hearted spirits and work-ethics of anyone I have ever known. He was the person you could count on in a crisis. If you needed his help, he would show up and follow through and I know so many of his friends and family can testify to the number of times he dropped everything to help someone in need.

Grief, Guilt, and Comfort for the Saint. Guest post by Dani Fisher at marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Angel of Grief” by Cathy Baird, CC BY via Flickr

More importantly, my brother loved Jesus and he loved the church. We had the privilege and joy of hearing his personal profession of faith and witnessing the evidence of his faith and the fruit of the Spirit in his character and his works. I still envy the grace and lightheartedness with which my brother moved through life. It’s something I continually aspire to.

Ultimately, we had no regrets. My brother’s life was secured in Christ and because of that there was only glory in the blink of an eye for him the night he died. Certainly we had nothing to regret.

Nevertheless, regret is an inevitable symptom of loss in a fallen, sinful world. For me it was a multitude of little things that, when accumulated, resulted in a great weight of guilt. There were the angry, hurtful words I wish I had never said – the encouraging, supportive words I should have said more – the affection and love I wish I had demonstrated more openly, thoughtfully, and generously. There were all the things we said we would together do but never did – all the little ways I should have been a better sister and friend to him. Read more

Does God Allow Trials We Can’t Endure?

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.”

Needing Others

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?

Does God Allow Trials We Can't Endure? marissabaker.wordpress.comGood 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).

Does God Allow Trials We Can't Endure? marissabaker.wordpress.comIf 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.

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