More Than You Can Bear

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Perhaps this might turn into a series, but this morning I want to address one of many sentimental errors that are rife in the Christian world. I don’t doubt the perpetrators mean well (and I stand among the guilty), but being sincerely wrong is still, well, wrong.

When a believer is facing a tough time, they are often told, “The Lord does not give you more than you can bear.” Well, actually, he often does.

This piece of advice arises, I believe, from a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “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.” The phrase, “he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” is often interpreted as God not giving us more than we can bear. But this is not exactly what the verse is teaching, as the next phrase makes clear, “but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.” Note who is providing the means of deliverances: not you, but rather “he,” that is, God. And because God is able to bear it, the believer being tried is able to persevere and “endure it.” In other words, whatever ability we have for whatever trial we face is inseparable from God’s ability. Because he can handle it, we are brought through it. Further, because there is nothing that God is not able to bear, those who belong to him are able to “endure it.” Paul personally illustrates this truth two chapters later when he recounts a recent trial:

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. 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.

(2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

We must understand that the Lord will give to us many things which, humanly, we are not able to bear. The Lord will lay things on us that, without his aid, would otherwise crush us. He does this to bring us to the end of ourselves, to confront us with the reality that we are not in control, that we are not self-sufficient, that we are not invincible. The Lord brings otherwise unbearable things into our lives to graciously teach us that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Dear Christian, be grateful that God does give to us more than we can bear! If he didn’t, we would be glory thieves. As South African astronomer and mathematician David Block reminded me this week in his book, God and Galileo, “Of all crimes, the worst is the theft of glory” (Robert Frost).

Unemployment and the inability to pay our bills are more than we can bear. Debilitating illness that reshapes what the rest of our life will look like is more than we can bear. Being betrayed and maliciously treated by those you once trusted is more than we can bear. Committing sin that weighs down our conscience is more than we can bear. Watching your children go away from the Lord and wasting their lives is more than we can bear. The death of a husband, a wife, a child, a parent is more than we can bear. But it is not more than God can bear. It is not more than God in the flesh could bear. You see, Jesus Christ bore it all. Every temptation or trial that Jesus faced was one that he bore to complete victory, for he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, he can bear you through what otherwise you could not bear. Remember: God’s not only “got this,” he’s got you. That my friend, is really good news.

Bearing up with you, because borne up with you,

Doug