You’ve probably heard – or maybe you’ve even said – “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Sounds really good but there’s just one problem. The Bible doesn’t teach that.
Many people point to 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this “Christian teaching.” But is that what Paul meant when he wrote: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear?” Let’s pull back and look at this sentence in the context of the larger passage to find out what Paul was talking about. (See this post for more information on “biblical context.)
The context, the topic of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is temptation and being prepared to resist it. Keep reading to discover the real promise found in verse 13.
At the end of chapter 9, Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to practice strict spiritual discipline like he did. Take note of the “for” in 1 Corinthians 10:1 (NIV). Paul wanted them to be self-disciplined because he did not want them to follow the bad example of Israel in the wilderness who gave into temptation and disobeyed God.
Because of their disobedience that generation died in the desert and never entered the promised land. Their story was recorded as a warning for the Corinthians and for us (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Then in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul elaborates on what we should do instead of giving into temptation and falling into sin. Here are three truth points for us from this passage:
- Thinking we are too strong to fall into sin makes us vulnerable. We must keep up our guard.
- No temptation will come our way that hasn’t already been part of the human experience. We won’t be tempted with something “new” or “unusual.”
- God is faithful. He will not allow any temptation to come our way that is too great for us to resist. He will always provide a way for us to say no and the strength to bear up under the pull of sin.
Okay, did you see that? Number 3 is the real promise of verse 13. God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can resist.
So what about this question: “Does God ever give us more hardship than we can handle?” The short answer is “yes.” But let’s turn to another one of Paul’s letters for a more in-depth explanation.
The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13
In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote about hardships he experienced in Asia:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV
The same biblical author that wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 also wrote 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul knew that God would allow him to experience more hardship than he could bear. He had lived it. He had pressure in Asia that was far beyond his ability to endure.
Why? Why did God allow Paul – and why does God allow us – to experience trials and difficulties, grief and pain, more than we can bear? One reason is found right in this passage – so that we will rely on God and not on our own strength and power.
Hear Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:10:
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:10, NIV
When we are unable to deliver ourselves, God is able. When we are unable to stand up under the pressure, it will be God’s strength in us.
No, God does not promise that He will never give us more than we can handle. Instead, He holds out His hand and tells us to lean on Him.
Have you ever misunderstood the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13? What comfort can you take in the real promise?
For more about how God uses trials in our lives see these posts: