“God will not give you more than you can bear.” I cannot tell you how many times I hear Christians comforting one another with these words in the face of inconceivable amounts of pain and suffering: a messy divorce, suicide, rape, a shooting, theft, adultery; depression, anxiety, cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia; a stroke, a failing heart, kidneys, lungs; a natural disaster, the loss of a job, a house, a spouse, child, grandchild, mother, father, sister, brother. . . need I go on?
Undoubtedly and inevitably to those who have come face to face with the evils of living in a sinful world, to those who have agonized over questions about why God would let this happen, or why he doesn’t fix this, or if he really loves me and cares for me, or why he has abandoned me and forsaken me, or even if there is really a god at all, to these a well-meaning “Christian” response is given: “Well, you know what the Bible says, God will not give you more than you can bear.”
Really? That’s the best we Christians can do? “God will not give you more than you can bear?” THAT’S NOT CHRISTIAN! That verse that we all seem to know and love so well, is not in the Holy Scripture. There is something that vaguely resembles the statement, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (). But notice, this verse is about temptation and God’s faithfulness to you in the midst of temptation. This verse does not say that in the face of inconceivable amounts of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual anguish “God will not give me more than I can bear, take, handle or have the strength to endure.” To which the other person must usually through an ocean of tears and gritted teeth respond in kind saying, “I know, I just which he didn’t trust me/think I can handle so much.” Let me reiterate, this platitude is not Scriptural, it is foreign and antithetical to Christianity, and above all, it is DANGEROUS!
This is because the cute little lethal platitude focuses on the wrong thing. This lie that masquerades as the truth focuses the person’s attention on themselves, on their skills, on their abilities and capabilities, and their dependability. And if everything depends on me, my abilities, and my capabilities, then we both know how dependable we are. Have we always done what we said we were going to do? Have we always been the best at everything we have tried to do? Have we always succeeded in everything we set out to accomplish? Let’s just call this platitude and line of thinking what it is: idolatry. We trust in ourselves, our skills, our tolerance, and our abilities to see us through. This actually leads us away from God (, , , ). What’s more, we blame our idolatry on the foreknowledge of God. Essentially we are saying, “God knows all things. He knows how good, how strong, how capable I am, therefore he will only give me that much and no more.”
Now, with this in mind, take a look at St. Paul’s words in this text: “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” –
What’s Paul saying? In essence, “I can’t. I can’t fix this. I can’t shake this. I can’t make it go away. I can’t make it better. I am not strong enough. This burden, this affliction, is more than I can handle, way more, so much more that I don’t want to live anymore. It feels like I have received a death sentence.” But notice, Paul does not end his thought and sentence there. He goes on to give his hearers true, lasting hope and comfort in the face of inconceivable amounts of pain and suffering. He writes, “But that was to make us rely NOT on OURSELVES but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (emphasis mine). Paul in the face of suffering points NOT to himself, his skills, tolerance, and abilities, but RATHER to God who raises from the dead, who alone is strong, who alone is faithful, and who alone has, does, and will deliver us from all affliction through the death and resurrection of his very own son, Jesus Christ our Lord () .
For this reason, because of Jesus alone, Paul does not and will not lose heart in the face of affliction (). To be sure, in the face of suffering, St. Paul cries out to God, he pleads that this suffering, this thorn in the flesh, be take away. But it is not. God’s answer to him in the face of his complete and utter weakness is simply this, “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness” (). And that all-sufficient grace, mercy, strength, and love of God for Paul in Jesus Christ is what leads him to proclaim in the midst of weakness, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” ().
Consequently my dear Christians, in the face of inconceivable amounts of pain and suffering, let us cast aside the cute little platitude, the lethal, unscriptural idolatrous lie that “God will not give you more than you can bear” and let us give to one another the ONLY lasting truth, strength, hope, mercy, and comfort that we have in this valley of sorrows, this veil of tears, this world of sin and death: JESUS. In Jesus Christ God has seen your affliction and known the distress of your soul. And what’s more, he has delivered you from it in the most remarkable way. Jesus has suffered for you, bled for you, died for you, and has engraved you on the palms of his hands, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood. You want to know if God has abandoned you, if he loves you, still cares for you, and hears your cries for mercy? Then, my dear Christian, you need only look to the cross of Jesus, to the wounds on his hands, feet, and side. There and there alone will you find God’s great love for you in the crucified Christ. And when he rose from the dead on Easter morning, he promised you that he will never leave you nor forsake you. But be with you always, even to the end of the age, even in the valley of the shadow of death. He will bring you safely to himself. And in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet Jesus will return and he will raise you from the dead. He will wipe every tear from your eye. He will be your God and you will be his people. There will be no more suffering, sin, illness, disease, or death. The old will have passed away and the new will have come. God has joined you in the flesh, so that you may join him in your flesh, in eternity. This is our hope, dear Christians. Our hope and answer to sin, suffering, and evil is nothing less than Jesus Christ and him crucified, risen, and reigning to all eternity! This is most certainly true.
Rev. Adam Filipek
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. (ESV)
3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (ESV)
3 “You shall have no other gods before me. (ESV)
32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.
21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made. (ESV)
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (ESV)
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (ESV)
10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
2 Corinthians 1:19-22
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, (ESV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)