Some Trials Are More Than We Can Bear
There are good reasons to stop telling ourselves and other victims of suffering that God will never give us more trials than we can bear. The statement makes the speaker sound pious and is reputed to have Scriptural origin, but there is no Bible verse which precisely states such a promise. We will soon look at the text which is misquoted to make it say that.
Meanwhile, think of a few traumatic situations in which we are likely to hear someone say “God will not allow you any more than you can bear.”
- The woman has just heard from her doctor that the full-term baby she is about to deliver is already dead.
- The teenager has been mandated by an unyielding judge to return home and live with a sexually abusive parent.
- The business owner is charged with murder because the burglar who robbed him repeatedly died when he hit him on the head.
- The elderly man lost his wife and his home to a fire set by his grandson.
Where do we obtain the right to deny individuals the feeling that their grief, trial, injustice, burden, loss or whatever they suffer is too heavy for them? Following are five good reasons that our well-intentioned message could be faulty and even damaging.
(1) The Text is Misquoted
The text containing the well-loved quote is 1 Corinthians 10:13*: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” It is specific about temptation. Temptation comes with a choice—to surrender or to walk away. When severe suffering presses down an individual like a tiger laying across the chest, it can numb the feet (no walking away), even threaten the sanity and the life.
Ron Edmondson1 points out that the one thing about temptation that can be applied to suffering, is the fact that God offers help. He explains that it would be correct to say, “God will allow more than you can bear—by yourself.” This may alter the perspective of the individual who is usually quick to use the false quote.
(2) We Can Hide Behind the Quote
When we realize that the sufferer needs help, what do we do about it? Some comforters hide behind this quote, not because they are irresponsible people, but because they have no idea how to help. They share the pain and hopelessness of the sufferer, and they choose to turn off their feelings, not knowing what else to do. They submit the line and the sufferer hears one or more of the following messages:
- You can bear it, so don’t expect me to help.
- You can bear it, so I will save my time and effort for my own trials.
- You can bear it, because this is your turn to be overwhelmed with life’s pressures.
When people are suffering, the brain puts extra energy into keeping them functional. There may not be enough energy left for proper reasoning and interpretation. They may hear only cruelty in some messages which come from people who intend to be helpful.
(3) We Lie to Ourselves
It is possible to say out loud that we never have trials more than we can bear, while secretly doubting what we say. We may even cry while we say it, still refusing to admit that:
- We are pretending to be stronger than we really are.
- We may be deceiving ourselves into thinking that our spirituality depends on our confession of that statement.
- We are neglecting our need for help.
- We may even confuse other individuals who wonder why we are so able to bear our trials while they struggle in vain to survive.
(4) Bible Characters Agree
The following two situations, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New may help us get real in admitting what and how we feel:
In the psalm which David is supposed to have written after he had Uriah murdered, he writes:
- For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:4)
Paul, in a letter the church at Corinth writes:
- For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Some versions render "burdened beyond measure, above strength" in the latter verse as "beyond our ability to endure." Both verses have the feel of honesty.
More Burdens Too Heavy
Too much work (Ex: 18:18)
Journey too great (1 Kings 19: 7)
Have no power (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Floods overflow me (Psalm 69: 2)
Angry even to death (Jonah 4:9)
(5) Over-Sized Burdens Brings Benefits
There is one important benefit that we deny ourselves and others when we pretend that trials and burdens are not more than we can bear.
Paul continued in his letter to say, "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God . . . in whom we trust that He will still deliver us." (2 Corinthians 1:9)
When we admit our inability to bear our suffering, we free ourselves to rely on God to help us through the situation, or to provide peace concerning whatever the outcome happens to be. We no longer feel the need to prove our strength; but instead we allow God to demonstrate His strength in our episode of weakness. Plus, in the process of going through our trials with God, our faith stretches and grows.
Let's not fight the feeling when we think that we have burdens which are more than we can bear. Let's just cling to a God who may give us more than we can handle2, but will help us handle what He gives.
1. Edmondson, Ron: God Will Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone) (3/15/2009)
2. Crisler, Channing: MinistryU. God Always Gives Us More Than We Can Handle (3/01/2012)
* All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
© 2015 Dora Weithers