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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Is It True That God Never Gives Us More Than We Can Handle?

Weight Lifting from everystockphoto by USAG-HumphreysMore Than We Can Handle?            

Last week my wife showed me an article which said that sometimes God DOES give us more than we can handle.

That didn’t sound right, so I sent a response to this blog’s email subscribers (you can subscribe at the far right, if you are interested).

The response was so enthusiastic that I thought I would expand on it here.

So — does God ever give us more than we can handle?

Think Of A Trial

Think of a trial you are facing.

Maybe you’ve been laid off, or had a medical setback.  Maybe you have wayward children, or a painful marriage.  Maybe you are lonely, or feel fruitless in ministry.

So — in giving you this trial — did God give you more than you could handle?  To answer that, we need to be clear on what it would mean to not be able to handle a trial.

Some Christians think God calls us to handle trials without any sorrow, struggle, or perplexity.  But that can’t be right, because Paul was often sorrowful (2 Cor 6:10), Jesus wept with grief (Luke 19:41), and Paul was often perplexed (2 Cor 4:8).

So what does it look like to handle a trial?  Paul tells us —

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… (2 Cor 4:8-9)

The apostles faced severe trials.  But they handled these trials the way God wanted them to, because during these trials their faith was not crushed, they hoped in God without despair, they knew they were not forsaken, and their trust in Christ was not destroyed.

That’s what it means to handle a trial.  So with that in mind — does God ever give us more than we can handle?

Too General

But that question is too general.  There are actually two questions we must ask.  One is —

Does God ever give us more than we — by ourselves, WITHOUT his grace — can handle?

Look at what Jesus said —

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

We are branches.  God has made his grace abundantly available to us in Christ the vine.  But if we don’t abide in him, if we rely on ourselves and not his grace, we can do nothing.

And so, apart from him, when trials come our faith will be crushed, our hope will become despair, we will think God has forsaken us, and our trust in Christ will be destroyed.

That’s what happens without his grace.  So then we also have to ask —

Does God ever give us more than we — WITH his grace — can handle?

Only True For Temptations?

The author of the article said that many Christians think God never gives more trials than we — with his grace — can handle.  But he said they base this on a wrong understanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13 —

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

He says that verse refers only to temptations, not to trials.  But I do not think that’s right.

One reason is because the Greek word for “temptations” (peirasmos) also means “trials.”  That’s why James uses the same word when he says “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials [peirasmos]” (Jam 1:2), as does Peter when he says we “have been grieved by various trials [peirasmos]” (1Pet 1:6).

And when you think about it, isn’t every trial also a temptation — to stop trusting Christ, to despair, to grumble? And isn’t every temptation also a trial — something we have to resist, battle, and overcome?

So there’s no reason to limit 1 Corinthians 10:13 to temptations.  I believe this verse promises that God will never let us be tempted or tried beyond what his grace will enable us to handle.

You can see that even more clearly in 2 Corinthians 9:8 —

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Whenever we face trials, God is able to make all of his grace abound to us.  As a result, we will have all sufficiency in all things at all times to abound in every work.

That does not mean no tears, sorrow, or perplexity.  But it does mean —

  • our faith will not be crushed
  • we will hope in God without despair
  • we will know God has not forsaken us
  • we will continue to trust Christ

Not that this will be easy.  Pressing in for God’s grace can mean tears and waiting on God.  It can mean battling in the Word, on our knees, and with the help of brothers and sisters in Christ.

This also does not mean we will do this perfectly.  We are not sinless.  Too often we turn from Christ to unbelief and despair.  But when that happens, it’s not that God gave us more than we by his grace could handle.  It’s that we turned from his grace.

And even then, if we will turn back to Christ, and pray “help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), he will come to us, forgive us, and help us.  And as we seek him, pour out our hearts before him, preach God’s promises to our souls, and fight to trust him —

  • he will strengthen our faith (Romans 10:17)
  • he will increase our hope (Romans 15:13)
  • he will comfort our grief (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • he will give us peace (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • he will satisfy our hearts in himself (John 6:35)

He promises.

Comments?  Feedback?

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(Picture is from everystockphoto and is by USAG-Humphreys.)

Category: Problems or Trials

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8 Responses

  1. Claire says:

    Steve, your posts bless me so. Thank you for the constant reminder on God’s promises. I most needed to be reminded tonight as I am going through trials in my family. I pray I find peace and comfort in Him who loves us.

  2. Rachel says:

    Hello Steve what a pleasure it is too have you send us words of strength. You have no idea how much your blogs regarding, God, Jesus, and his word has helped me through my trials, but more importantly how they have brought me closer to God..

  3. Yvonne Gabrielle says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for this beautifully written post. Thank you for reassuring your readers of God’s generosity and graciousness towards His children, yet reminding us to embrace the imperfections we encounter in the spiritual battles.

    Your blog posts are very inspiring and nurturing. Keeping you in my prayers that you may be fueled with the passion and perseverance to continually do what you do:)
    God bless!

  4. Brian says:

    Steve,
    The context of the verse not just the term determines the meaning. I am not desiring to defend the article or the author’s assessment but only to weigh in on 1 Corinthians 10:13.
    1 Cor. 10 discusses the consequences of sin.
    V 1-5: to those who had the same baptism as Moses.
    V 6: these are examples so we do not crave evil.
    V 8: don’t be idolaters
    V 9: nor act immorally
    V 10: nor grumble
    V 11: example for them, written for our instruction
    V 12: therefore don’t get proud of your ability to stand before you fall
    V 13: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
    V 14: therefore flee idolatry.
    Along with verse 14, scripture tells us to flee immorality (1 Cor 6:18), desire for riches (1 Tim 6:11), lusts (2 Tim 2:22).
    In contrast regarding trials, James 1 says we should count it all joy (v2), it produces endurance and perfects us (v4), if we lack the wisdom to count them as joy, God will provide it (v5) and we are blessed when we persevere them (v12).
    I point out this contrast because while He is telling us to flee temptation he is also telling us to embrace our trials or in 2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you”.
    The inappropriate use of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is one of my pet peeves. Of course if God is for us, who can stand against us (Rom 8:31-32). Of course in His presence I cannot be overwhelmed. Of course we have many reasons for our hope during trials.
    But, the comfort of losing a child is not in 1 Corinthians 10:13 because the way of escape is there for temptations.
    You have my deepest love and respect, my brother!
    Brian

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Brian,

      It’s always a joy to hear from you. Thank you for advancing the discussion with your helpful thoughts and questions.

      I agree that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptations to sin.

      And my guess is that you would see 2 Cor 9:8 as including God’s promise of comfort for the loss of a child.

      So we agree that God does not give us more than we, by his grace, can handle.

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I still think 1 Cor 10:13 applies to us when we go through trials. Not that it promises escape from the trials themselves. But it promises that by God’s grace we can escape the temptations that accompany trials.

      In other words, is there a problem with applying 1 Cor 10:13 to the temptations that the heartbreaking loss of a child would bring?

      And could not God’s outpourings of comfort be one way by which we could escape some of those temptations?

      I hope that better explains what I am trying to say. And thank you again for pushing me to think this through more clearly.

      Your friend and brother,

      Steve

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