These words are so often spoken when someone we know is going through a difficult time or a course of trying events, “Remember, God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.” I think we’re wrong about that.
Before you stop reading in a statement of disgust at my statement I offer you this challenge. Find the verse in the Bible where it says that. Where does it say “God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.”?
The thinking is flawed, though this “wisdom saying” has good intentions (And need I remind you of the wisdom saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?). People when in pain, physical, emotional, mental or spiritual crave comfort and we who are witness to their pain want to offer words of comfort, encouragement, inspiration. But there are some reasons we have to take a second look at a waving banner for encouragement that is incorrect.
One, God does not “give us” life’s troubles. We suffer in this life, as Jesus told us we would, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV) Life has trouble because life is flawed due to sin. When Adam and Eve sinned humanity gave up paradise and perfection until we come into God’s presence in Heaven after our physical death. Yes, God is in control but He does not force His will upon us. This world is corrupt but that corruption is due to Satan and humanity’s sins, Jesus is in the business of redeeming man. God does not bring us trouble. As in the case of Job, God allows trouble, but He doesn’t cause trouble.
Two, we suffer in this life because we sin and there are consequences to our actions even when forgiveness is given. Our own sins can bring us suffering, but so can the sins of other people. Regardless of what we’d like to believe none of us live without our lives impacting someone else. The unfaithful spouse causes suffering to their spouse and family. The wayward child causes suffering to his or her parents. The thief his victims. The drunk driver his own family and the family and actual victims of his accident.
Three, we have pain in this life because we love. We love our spouses, our children, our friends, our extended family and church family. Most of us share a sense of love for the mass of humanity around us, at least we share sympathy or empathy with those in life who suffer in natural disasters, terrorism, poverty, hunger and war. So when those we love suffer, we suffer too.
But we can offer very real and very Biblically accurate words of encouragement to those who suffer and even to ourselves.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11, 13)
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
In times of sorrow and trouble we are right to offer hope, to offer comfort but let us offer them in truth.