For those of us who have accepted Christ, do you remember when you first made that decision? The sense that anything was possible with Christ? The knowledge that your sins were forgiven and you were free? The thought that you were single-handedly responsible for saving all of your friends, relatives, and every person you met because Jesus said to “Go, Make Disciples”? Overwhelmed with responsibility, we turned to Scripture to get our next big push of encouragement, and often a well-meaning, but Biblically-illiterate, friend offered up a phrase to encourage you. “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” And the next lie we mistake as truth is born. “But it says so, right here in Scripture”, right? And they quote 1 Corinthians 10:13. And we accept it. It is their interpretation that has made it, as nice as it sounds, a dismissive lie. “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”
Read the full verse though.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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.
Temptation to sin should not be mistaken for a blanket covering of everything that life throws at us. It also is not a bait and switch where God throws you into the deep end of the pool, spiritually, physically or emotionally, and then will pull you out if you are taking on too much water. While temptation is present, not imposed by God but a condition of living in the world, we know that God is able to support us and show us a way out of that temptation. God’s faithfulness when trouble finds us or we find it, is true. But the Scripture clearly states that temptation HAS overtaken us that is “common for man”. God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, but the condition for that protection is based on being with Him. Temptation overcomes because we are human, and if we go it alone, it will overpower us. This is truly the key to our success. We must stay with God and permit ourselves be held close.
Somehow though this doesn’t feel like the whole answer to the lie we mistake as truth, so let’s look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. The lie is not in that God will not bring you through whatever you or I encounter, it is that God does not bring us to it. Trouble happens. It happens often. It comes in large and small packages. We will encounter it, Christian or not. But Paul lifts up that while we suffer and are surrounded with trouble, whether it be financial, emotional, relational or any number of other “living” related issues, God is present in those around us as well as supernaturally. We are called to comfort and be comforted by each other. Our troubles and the comfort we experience or can experience, is what produces patience and endurance.
We do not possess the ability to run marathons by simply eating right and stepping onto a track. We are met with temporary limitations of our undeveloped lungs and muscles. It is through training, and even some company to join us in the struggle, that we are able to build endurance. If we consistently avoid exercise, especially the running part, we can be assured that when it comes time to run, we will not run far, we will have to walk and may not even finish the race, the task we set out to accomplish. Trouble is necessary to build strength and endurance. Relief is also necessary or we will buckle to the pressure. While we may experience a lot of life that is not necessarily kind to us, God is present and calls us to be present with him and to others as we face life together. We can seek out comfort in God, but we should also seek out comfort in other followers so as to prevent burn out.
It is important though that we seek out those who need comfort. How many people do you know that have shared their struggles with faith in Christ, or just with Christ’s followers. Too many people have been turned away or repelled by “Christian’s behaving badly.” For those of us who seek to be like Christ, to share His grace and love with others, and are seeking others out who need Christ, we will likely find plenty of people who have met trouble and lost. Many of those who have lost are also those that others who professed Christ but did not model His life lost by not supporting, encouraging, or comforting. The woman who has lost her child may have left because they were told “It must be God’s plan”. The college student who asked questions in order to find answers was turned away because “real Christians don’t question God”. It is our role and responsibility to be Christ’s Body to bring them through it, because others wouldn’t do it after life brought them to it.
Do I give God more credit for my troubles and not enough for His comfort?
How can I join someone to walk through temptation or trouble successfully?
Do I believe half-truths to avoid the fullness of God’s wisdom for me?