More than you can bear

Karen writes:

Dear Jamin,

I have a burning question….

Scripture says that God will not give us more than we can bear. Wonder how people use that as a comfort.
In a world where children get raped until they die etc. Much more goes on that is more than a person can bear. People go insane when tortured….obviously unbearable.
Some might argue these things aren’t God-given, & so why this scripture might not apply to many bad situations.
Why then use the scripture to comfort those who are suffering what obviously also isn’t from God.

I’m failing to see an appropriate application….

Thanks for writing Karen.

When considering what the Bible says, it is important to distinguish between what the Bible actually says and what people say it says.

I think you are referring to I Corinthians 10:13 which says “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it.”

So firstly, Paul is talking to the Corinthians specifically about a trail they were facing at the time of writing. Looking over the rest of the chapter, this verse comes at the end of a long list of things people have been temped with in the past (sometimes failing), saying that the current trails are not new or unique, but common to all men.

Now looking at the verse itself, a key word here seems to be “seized”. In the Greek it is “lambanō” which has 16 similar meanings. Generally speaking it means to take or try to take. So the verse is could be saying that the Corinthians aren’t tempted in any way that isn’t common to all men, or that they haven’t given in to temptation in a way that isn’t common to all men. Personally, I think the second would make more sense in the context. Part of the reason for Paul writing this letter appears to be problems of immorality in Corinth. So what I think he is saying in this verse is:

Yes, you have fallen into immorality. It has happened to God’s people before so don’t beat yourselves up over it. Just move the focus back to God and move on from your immoral behaviour.

So in response to your question, Paul is not writing to children being raped until they die or people being tortured. He is writing to a small Christian congregation in a comfortably wealthy city who’ve gone a little off the rails in his opinion. I don’t think Paul ever intended this letter to be appropriated by Christians 2000 years after its writing, but assuming that there is a message here for the modern age, I think it probably has more to say to the well off than those who are suffering.

I think it says: The temptations you’ve fallen in to are no different to the temptations people have been falling in to for years. Their idols were carved from stone, yours are projected from your TV screen, but the temptation is still the same. You don’t need to buy everything society tells you to want. You don’t need to have sex with lots of people. God’s given you the strength to resist these temptations, and if you cling to that knowledge it will be a lot easier to say no to the things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

I hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s