Oct 17, 2013
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?
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)
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- A Promise For When You Are Tempted
- Is This Trial From Satan Or God?
- Asking Why? Here’s Gods’ Loving Purpose For Every Trial
- How Spurgeon Saw His Trials And Suffering
(Picture is from everystockphoto and is by USAG-Humphreys.)