I’m sure you’ve heard people say the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” but have you ever stopped to look in the Bible and really check to see the accuracy of that statement? Back before I had really gone through major trials in my life, especially anything compared to the ongoing battle I’m currently going through, I never really gave it a second thought. I then heard a pastor teach in 1 Corinthians and upon teaching the relevant Scripture said that wasn’t what it meant. It made sense when he explained it, but I’d never really looked into it for myself so I didn’t really have a firm grasp to know for sure one way or the other.
Time passed and my health declined, and so my ongoing battle began. I’ve prayed for healing, I’ve gone to doctor after doctor, I’ve been on medication after medication, but there isn’t yet a known cure. It’s simply neurological conditions that will continue plague me. After starting this journey, when people would tell me “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle”, it wasn’t an encouragement, it wasn’t providing hope, it wasn’t some promise I could look and hold onto. Instead it stung in my heart. It made me question the validity and truth of what they were actually saying. If what they were saying is true, then surely God decided to skip over me because I can’t handle this and honestly, I don’t want to. There really isn’t anything on this side of eternity that I want to be able to handle on my own. I want my Abba to provide His Spirit to me like He promised He would if I ask and I want Him to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death so that I won’t fear knowing He is with me and won’t ever leave me, comforting me under the shadow of His wing. Nonetheless and regardless of what I want, I needed to know the truth…will God give me more than I can handle or not?
So I turned to the Blue Letter Bible study tool and looked up 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Now we know that temptation, when referring to enticement to sin, is brought about by our fleshly desires which when conceived gives birth to sin and ultimately death (James 1:14-15). But this word temptation is also referring to a trial or testing. I tend to dig in to the original text when I study because it helps me better understand the Scripture. When I did this, I saw that the word for temptation (peirasmos in the Greek) is a noun defined as “a putting to proof by experiment, experience, solicitation, discipline, or provocation; by implication or adversity.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon makes note that this word specifically is the trial of fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy, and also enticement to sin, whether arising from desires or outward circumstances. I then looked specifically at the word overtaken, (lambanō in the Greek), which is a verb defined as taking hold of, to seize or remove, to attain, catch, obtain, take away or up. So the first part of the verse is saying: one, that our trials and temptations to sin are common to mankind and two, there isn’t one that is going to seize or take hold of you, like as in “the devil made me do it” kind of way.
The next section “but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” If you break this up, it will lose context, which is where I think the false phrasing came from. If you only take “but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” it sounds like God won’t give you more than you can handle, but that’s also completely out of context. The Bible also says in Psalm 14:1 “There is no God” but that’s out of context too, because we’ve left out “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God” so context matters a lot. Where it says you won’t be tempted beyond what you are able, the word “able” (dynamai in the Greek) is a verb defined as to be able or possible, could, may, might, be of power. In the context is referring to our own fleshly possibility, might, or power. The phrase “way of escape” is actually one word in the Greek (ekbasis) and is a noun defined as meaning to go out, an exit (literally or figuratively), end, way to escape. Lastly, “to bear it” is actually one word in the Greek (hypopherō) and is a verb defined as to bear from underneath, to undergo hardship, bear patiently, endure. This verb is written in the aorist infinitive, meaning always having a future reference but doesn’t express a progressive aspect, but more as a completed unit with a definite beginning and end.
When thinking about this whole “beyond what you are able” portion and the word and definition of the Greek, the Lord took me on a little ride through Scripture. As I saw the Greek word “dynamai” it reminded me of the Greek word “dynamis” that I had studied in Acts 1 when Jesus tells His disciples to wait until they had received the power [dynamis] when the Holy Spirit would come upon them before they went out to be His witnesses. We know that Jesus told them this because they in themselves, their fleshly ability, wouldn’t be able to do what He was calling them to do. This is the same power/ability [dynamis] that Mary received when she conceived Jesus (Luke 1:35). Do you think she was able to handle that as a young woman facing being stoned to death and physically having never been with a man yet facing child birth? I’m sure she didn’t think so either, yet she knew her God was faithful and He had promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power [dynamis] of the Most High would overshadow her. She knew she wasn’t alone because of what He promised! In the same way, the temptation for Joseph to quietly divorce her was obviously there but God made an escape by a dream and an angel. Joseph could have still chosen to follow through with his divorce plan but he chose to trust God and walk through the trial with Mary. He took God’s way of escape and was able to bear it. Was it suddenly easy? No, but through that trial those two got to be the earthly parents to the Son of God!
So that showed me the contrast of our obviously lacking earthly, flesh ability to God’s awesome, supernatural power and ability. I sought to reconcile the two even farther in my mind. Who better than Jesus, our High Priest who doesn’t lack understanding of what it is to be tempted as a human Himself? Often throughout the gospels we see Jesus’ physical needs (needing to sleep – He fell asleep in the boat, needing to eat – He ate with His disciples throughout the gospels, feeling sorrow and weeping – upon Lazarus’ death, having pain and thirst – upon the cross) but we also see that He was baptized with the Holy Spirit after His water baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove and His fervency throughout His earthly ministry in getting away to pray and have His time alone with the Father. Likewise, in John 15:5, Jesus tells us to abide in Him and that apart from Him we can do nothing. The “you can” in the “apart from me you can do nothing” is the same dynamai as in 1 Corinthians 10:13 when it says “able”. That realm of human possibility or power. This was the connecting piece, like with a nice neat bow, for me.
Jesus had the Holy Spirit when He was going throughout His life on earth and we need Him too. And apart from abiding in Him, we are able [dynamai] to do nothing. The thing is, trials in themselves are very capable of being more than we are able to handle, but we have a promise from our faithful God that with that trial He is going to make a way of escape so that we can bear it. Which brought me to the next aha moment…
When I think of an escape or an exit, I think of those big emergency exit signs that I can just run right out of the door and poof! I’m out! Which had the ending “that you may be able to bear it” not been included, that’s exactly how I’d interpret it. However, in this context, because of the aorist infinitive verb—that the way of escape provided will come at some future point and yes allow you to be able to bear it—the word itself includes that hardship and patience are part of the bearing. At first this honestly felt a little discouraging, but because it is written as a completed unit, meaning it does have an end, that gives hope! James tells us that the testing of our faith produces patience and if we let patience have its perfect work we’ll be complete, lacking nothing. Romans also tells us to glory in our tribulations, knowing that they produce perseverance, character, and hope and that hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
As I reread through this verse with this new knowledge and understanding, it made so much more sense, but then one more thing jumped out at me… “but God is faithful”. I had one last word study to do… “faithful”. Faithful (pistos in the Greek) is an adjective defined as trustworthy, faithfully, sure, true. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon also continues the definition with a “persons who shows themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties…one who kept his plighted faith, worthy of trust; that can be relied on.”
I just had to stop right there and bask in that truth for awhile. Regardless of every circumstance in my life, good, bad, or in between… God is faithful! He is the most trustworthy person that has ever been or ever will be and I know that I can rely on Him always. In Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it was so beautiful that one of the definitions was “one who kept his plighted faith”. I, not knowing what on earth plighted meant initially, looked it up, and plighted is a pledge or promise to be married to. And what a beautiful picture that we are the bride of Christ and our God is faithful, one who keeps His plighted, His sealed with the Holy Spirit bride, faith as we wait for the day when our Jesus will come back to get us. It is so comforting to think on God’s faithfulness.
Overall, by the end of studying this Bible verse and searching about whether God does or doesn’t give us more than we are able to handle, I honestly cared less about the fact that trials will be more than I can handle and was more in awe of the fact that He is faithful to me, that He shows me steadfast love continually, that He is producing in me patience, perseverance, character, and hope, all so that I can be complete and lacking nothing. Regardless of how big the trials I’m going through are, I know that God is bigger than my trials and He has empowered me with His Spirit and dynamis power to overcome and bear it. I want to bear it because I want to be refined like gold and become more like Jesus through it and if the current trials I’m going through help accomplish that, then so be it and His grace will be sufficient and His strength will be made perfect in my weakness. I’d much rather know that I went through a trial and came out on the other side because God got me through it than thinking that the trial was merely less than what I could handle in my flesh. It magnifies God in my mind and puts me in the proper perspective based on the truth of His word. No it doesn’t feel good in my flesh, it’s painful and until He heals me it will continue to be, but my soul is comforted and restored and I know He will keep me in perfect peace because my mind is stayed on Him and I trust in Him. Quite literally my heart and flesh may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever.