God gives us more than we can bear. Yes, He does. The apostle Paul believed it: “We should like you, our brothers, to know something of what we went through in Asia. At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end” (2 Corinthians 1:8 Phillips).
The oft-quoted supposedly comforting, reassuring promise “God never gives you more than you can bear” is not in the Bible. Rather, the statement is a misrepresentation of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (HCSB).
In that quotation Paul is talking about temptation, an enticement to sin. He is not referring to life’s searing experiences of grief, poverty, abuse, sickness, income loss, a devastating divorce, desertion, a gut-wrenching betrayal, hopes dashed, destroyed dreams, rejection, exhausting 24/7 care of a declining parent, loneliness, a murder’s aftermath, a child’s terminal illness, and (you fill in the blank). Already you may have had that sterile moment when your bowels of suffering discharged the plaintive cry, “O God!”
Why does the sovereign God permit crushing burdens to infiltrate our lives–even the lives of those who are diligent in prayer and Bible study? The apostle Paul figured out the answer: “Yet we believe now that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9 Phillips).
You and I are not indomitable. One of us may be able to hold up under a particular suffering longer than someone else, but all of us reach the point where we come to the end of ourselves. Knotted with anxiety, we feel we cannot absorb another thing.
As I placed the onion on the counter, I heard the refrigerator door open and then a thud. Turning, I saw Gail passed out on the floor, her hands curved like a bird’s feet in front of her.
After Jim and I helped her back to bed, I rushed to my study and closed the door. Daddy! Gail! My husband now diagnosed with Parkinson’s! I felt I couldn’t take anymore. I needed help. (page 175 of Before the Door Closes)
The help I needed was God. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been praying to God for wisdom and strength as I fought to protect my father against nursing home neglect and abuse. I was caring for him as I thought God led me. But having now reached my endurance limit, I was at the end of myself and ready to encounter God as Yahweh-Shammah (click on What’s in a Name?).
My focus had been that I could do as long as God did; but like Paul, I learned that I am to trust, not in myself, but absolutely in God. I needed to let go of me and let God.
The mindset that God will not give me more than I can bear makes life about me and what I can do or should be able to do. Life is never to be about me; it is all about God.
Well acquainted with life’s tempestuous events, King David left us this prayer:
“Save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance;
Shepherd them also,
And bear them up forever.”
(Psalm 28:9 NKJV)
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