“There isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.”
~1 Corinthians 10:13 (GW [italics not original])
There is much confusion in Christian circles regarding this passage above. Some people believe, quite erroneously I think, that it refers to our blessed God-sponsored strength to overcome any trial. To a certain extent this may be true. But there are always exceptions to rules in life.
First of all, we need to understand the context of this passage, as a summary verse for 1 Corinthians 10:1-12—which has as its focus, idolatry. The central theme is sin, and temptation to sin.
It is quite a different context, then, to consider this passage in terms of some of those burdens we have which are too heavy to bear. If we desire strength to bear our burdens, those that have nothing to do with sin, for instance grief, this is actually the wrong verse to encourage us and urge us on.
This verse above simply encourages us to seek the Lord when we are tempted; when we are tempted to sin—again, having nothing to do with burdens too difficult to bear—this verse offers a beautifully solemn promise. But it is off-point much of the time when sin isn’t the issue.
There are Some Burdens Too Difficult to Bear
It is a false and misleading theology to consider the gospel is the answer for every single confounding problem. Faith is the only way to endure, that is for certain, but Jesus never promised an answer for all our deepest problems, as we seem to need them.
We may wonder why Job, Lamentations, the Prophets, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms have endured to infiltrate and somehow despoil our otherwise ‘positive’ doctrine.
There is much more of the Bible that focuses on the inexplicable and incomprehensible and unconscionable facts of life that would quickly deform and destroy a superficial faith. Yet, we are called to a deep faith, not a superficial one; not one characterised by flippant and clichéd answers to every problem.
Our faith must work in real life—up against real, even, and at times, unsolvable problems.
Ask the person deep in their grief, having lost a partner, a son, a daughter, a marriage, a career, their life direction, or having simply lost hope—is God big enough?
There are times they cannot answer in the affirmative, but God does get them through. He gets us through. But during certain periods of these burdensome seasons we cannot go on and we do give up; for an hour, a day, a week or more. We suffer some sort of spiritual fatigue. God understands. And the sun rises again each day. Each day is a fresh chance; each day, by God’s magnificent grace.
Beyond the Burdens
There are some problems, with even our faith in God, we have no answer for. Some problems will break us. But destruction doesn’t mean comprehensive or ultimate defeat. And this is where we draw hope.
Inevitably the time comes when we do get past the burden that we couldn’t rationalise.
Later, much later, we see God’s faithfulness to bring us through. But it is insensitive on us when we hear people advise us flippantly, with clichéd nuances on the scriptures, however well-intentioned they are.
We must be careful not to bend Scripture out of shape. God will not allow us to be tempted (regarding sin) beyond our power to resist temptation. But that has nothing to do with burdens, like grief. Some burdens we are asked to endure will break us, but, be assured, God will pick us up!
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Ruan.