“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life…”
~2 Corinthians 1:8
When one reads this verse, one cannot help but think of the misleading statement quoted by many well-meaning Christians: “God does not give you more than you can bear.” I’m sure many of us have heard these words before, but they are a gross misunderstanding of the scripture found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. There we are told, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
What the Lord has promised is that through Christ we can overcome the power of sin. Through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we can overcome the temptations from within our own hearts and the spirit of this age. He did not promise, however, that we would not be given trials that we cannot endure on our own. What He promised is that He would be with us through them all.
This statement of God not giving us more than we can bear has done more damage than good. It brings about confusion as to why things may be happening, guilt, condemnation, and further doubts about the goodness and love of God when things feel like too much. People question their faith and if they are even saved or not for doubting God, questioning God, and for feeling that they’re not strong enough.
If things were not more than what we good bear, we would not call it suffering, painful, trying, fearful, or discouraging. The apostle Paul was right when he wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “…we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life…”
I’m sure he is not the only Christian who has felt this way. It is not because he lacked faith or because he was in sin. He was suffering as a servant of God for preaching the gospel. So, beloved, if today as a child of God you feel burdened excessively beyond your strength, do not feel condemned or ashamed. Rather tell the Lord exactly how you feel and that you need Him. For if we read the next verse we see how hope still came to the apostle in spite of the fact that his very life was being threatened continually, not to mention the other trials he was going through and feeling.
“…indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…” (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)
You see, beloved, it was the trial, the very threat of his life, that brought the apostle to a place of not hoping in himself but rather in God. He knew that within himself he had not the strength or courage to go on. There was no hope within. He had to look to God, knowing that even if he died as a martyr for Christ, he would be raised in the great resurrection. God had delivered and would continue to deliver him from many perils and threats of life. His hope was that the Lord was with him, enabling him and keeping him. He might die one day, but even in that the sting of death had been removed and the grave has no victory over those who are in Christ.
Beloved, are you dealing with something beyond what you can bear? This is a place of hopelessness if you are only looking to yourself. But if you understand that God is bringing you to the end of yourself in order that you will cling to Him more closely, then you will be comforted. Not because your circumstances have changed, but because you know the One who is with you through them and working in them. The Lord will give you more than you can bear, but it is so you will come to the One who bears all things. Cast them upon the Lord, for He cares for you. Hope not in yourself but in God, who is able and will deliver you.
In Christ alone.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. www.lockman.org