Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Than Who Can Handle?

One verse that Christians like to use to comfort themselves and each other is 1 Corinthians 10:13. We find comfort in the thought that God “won’t give us more than we can bear.”

Recently I’ve been reading a couple of Charles Stanley’s books. One in particular is How to Handle Adversity. I found it curious that it wasn’t titled “How to Overcome Adversity.” Indeed, the book isn’t about how to battle adversity and come out the victor; rather, it’s about how to understand what God may be saying, or not saying, during difficult times.

The book led me to think back to the 1 Corinthians verse. I like to take things in context, so here it is with some of the surrounding material:

1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the same spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. 10And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.

11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. [1 Corinthians 1:1-14, Today’s NIV]

There are tons of things that could be brought forth from just that little smidgen of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, but let’s stay focused here. The famous “beyond what you can bear” verse deals with temptation, not adversity. Surprised? Granted, much adversity can come from the consequences of our sin, as Paul wrote earlier. Adversity, though, can come for other reasons; consider Job as the most famous example of one who suffered extreme adversity that wasn’t caused by sin. The blind man mentioned in John 9 was born blind, but not due to sin, but so that God’s glory could shine forth (John 9:3).

So where is our hope in adversity? Consider This: God’s still there, and God still cares. When Joshua was ready to take Jericho in the name of the Lord, God told him numerous times to “be strong and courageous,” because God was with them. We might not be able to bear the suffering, but God can, if we cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:6-11).

One pastor, in his “Faith Engineer” blog at http://www.faithengineer.com/2008/01/god-wont-give-you-more-than-you-can.html, cited another pastor dealing with this. Quoting that other pastor: “It does not imply that God won’t let you be stressed beyond what you can bear. Or challenged beyond your ability. Or pushed beyond your threshold. In reality, God gives you more than you can bear all the time. On purpose. It’s only when you can’t bear the load that the strength of Christ kicks in… and He becomes everything you need and more.”

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