“God Will Not Give Me More Than I Can Bear”

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

In the Greek, the word for trial and temptation is the same. This has resulted in the following verse to be read and interpreted differently by many Christians. The consequence can be very troubling when our expectations of God’s actions don’t match our experiences.

“No temptation [some versions say trial] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [trial] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial] will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

When versions use the word “trial” and not “temptation” it is often paraphrased in this way, “God will not give me more than I can bear.” We’ve all heard supporting statements, when one person says to the one under the trial, “You are strong. God wouldn’t give me that trial because He knows I couldn’t handle it.” It’s just bad theology that can set people up for serious trouble.

Trial is understood as a test of endurance, while temptation refers to the desire to do something unwise or wrong. Under a trial we may seek out a tempting way in which to end the painful trial, revealing they are not the same thing. For example, if we are angry, we may or may not be tempted to calm or resolve the anger by an improper expression, such as retaliation. Those who are not tempted to do evil, as regards their anger, may consider it just a trial.

Sometimes there is not a way out of a trial until it is over, passed, or finished. Sometimes we just have to endure, which might be for a lifetime. An example is chronic illness. God has not promised there will always be a way out of a trial, but He has promised a way of escape for all temptations, which is the correct word for our verse in review.

When Jesus was tempted He handled them in a godly manner and they came to an end. Jesus also experienced the trial of having to cope with his frustration or anger with the limited faith of human beings — “‘I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?” (Mk 9:19).

All this is very important because those who interpret it as “trial” can become confused, disappointed, angry, and experience a faith wound, even a crisis of faith. When a trail of sadness or worry morphs into something more sinister, such as a diagnosable condition of depression and generalized anxiety disorders, some will be upset with God about why their efforts to overcome the trouble failed and why it all led to the need for medication and perhaps even hospitalization. Some will blame themselves instead of God. But both responses results in a wounded soul and most often spirit.

In the end time, there will be an apostasy of the Christian church when martyrdom threatens His people (Mt 24:9). We can understand that kind of trial is about being rejected, slandered, and hated and attempts to cope with injustice, moreover, the threat of death. It will be a trial from which there will not be an escape in the sense of being rescued from death. It will be a trial to endure.

Along with that trial will come challenging temptations, such as trusting in one’s own methods to protect one’s self and loved ones by leaving the church and joining the new world order, but that would require denying Christ. Self-protection through denial will be the temptation. Denial is obviously not God’s method of escape from the hard feelings of anxiety about impending death.

God’s escape is having His overwhelming peace in the midst of the threat, even if it results in the loss of life. His peace keeps His people from being overwhelmed by fear. That peace is cultivated by recognizing, accepting and permitting one’s self to be a sheep for the slaughter, faithful till death (Rev 2:10) and willing to participate in the sufferings of Christ, or said differently, His sufferings through us.

His peace administered by the Spirit within us will help keep us from being long overwhelmed by agonizing feelings of loss and any temptations that might accompany the right hate of the injustice and evil. We will be able to patiently endure what ultimately He will permit, for His sovereignty, His power and His good plan are without weakness or blemish. It is reasonable to try and find ways out of a hard trial. Yet there have been and will be times when our only good option will be to have enduring faith in His salvation and in the life beyond this one. God acts only in faithfulness to those with whom He has covenanted, and His great and comforting presence will overshadow us who entrust our bodies and spirits to Him. We can all learn to truly rest in Him.