If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
It sounds spiritual. But is it biblical?
Let’s let the cat out of the bag right away: God often gives us more than we can handle.
The saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is popular, but we will not find it anywhere in Scripture. It does not exist.
I think what people are doing when they use this verse is a misapplication of another verse. A verse found in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
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.
It’s important to note that God does not tempt anyone. That’s made clear from James 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” But, as Aaron Armstrong says, “While God does not tempt us, He does, in his sovereignty, permit us to be tempted.”
When Paul writes that God will not tempt us beyond our ability, he means that we are never in a situation where have no other choice but to sin. In a situation where telling the truth will damage your reputation, for example, it’s much easier to give in to the temptation to protect how people see you and lie, rather than do the right thing, which is tell the truth. That’s why there’s no such thing as a “white lie”—one that you tell to protect the feelings of someone else. We never lie to make someone else feel better, only to avoid discomfort ourselves. It’s just easier to lie and not deal with the consequences of telling the truth.
But, easy rarely equals right. We always have the option of doing the right thing, that which is honoring to God, but it will often cost us—whether that cost is reputation, position, relationship, or money, there will be a cost. But it’s always worth it to do the right thing.
So it’s true that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to do what is right, He will almost always give us more than we can handle on our own.
So we learn that the implications behind the quote is in regards to temptation, not affliction. We learn that God will give us more than we can handle from Paul: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians. 1:8)
Paul said they were “utterly burdened beyond our strength.” They despaired of life itself. They were afflicted, wounded, battered and defeated. They received more than they could handle.
But why? Is there a point?
Paul answers that in the next verse: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).
The reason God often gives us more than we can handle is so that we can learn to depend on him.
We are not self-sufficient. If we never suffered, we would be worse, not better. Why? Our pride would destroy us. We would never feel as if we had a need to pray, to trust God, to seek him. We would have everything figured out, and our sinful rebellion would destroy us.
Maybe we need to start seeing the trials and difficulties as a blessing, not a burden. He does not want us to rely on our own strength, but his, and he uses the trials to teach us that. We can find joy amidst the trial by receiving the strength he provides in the trial. And he will — He is faithful and true.
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