The Bible says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” (James 1)
It also says: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10)
I’ve been thinking about these verses lately because of a discussion in our family about the phrase people often use: God won’t give you more than you can handle. Maybe it’s even a phrase in a current song right now.
The truth is that often life is hard. Sometimes we can get down on God because we think He has not kept His word – based on that phrase – and that we are facing situations that are more burdensome than we can possibly survive. Paul, the very one who said that God would not let us be tempted beyond our ability, said later in a letter (to the same church at Corinth) that at one point, he was “so utterly burdened beyond his strength that he and his friends despaired of life itself.” Hmmmmm. Based on this verse, I am thinking that Paul wouldn’t exactly agree with that little cliche either. Was he contradicting God (and even himself) by saying that?
I don’t think he was. For one thing, that phrase that I referred to previously isn’t even in the Bible. Paul had a human emotion of despair because of the trials he had faced that were so discouraging he wondered if he would survive. Literally.
So what to make of all this? Well, while I firmly believe that God never EVER tempts us to sin, I do believe that sometimes in life God’s grace is actually demonstrated in our lives by a thorn rather than a rose. Trials are painful, but they are reminders that God’s grace is enough. I believe that we actually have the ability, in Christ, to despair and rejoice at the same time. In our frailty we become weary, drained, and desperate. When that happens we are driven to our knees and we cry out to the only One who can rescue us. The escape plan is as simple as authentically calling out to God and saying “Help me!” In that moment of our heaviest heart, a great truth arises in our souls: He.Is.Here.
Oh the peace! “God with us” appears in our hearts and minds. Our innermost groanings are heard and our heavy hearts are lifted to a place higher than ourselves where we are able overcome the temptation to give in to sinful thoughts and deeds. We are reminded that Jesus, our great High Priest, has gone before us. He suffered great anguish and great joy in the same moment. He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. We don’t have to give in to the temptations of the evil one, attempting to lure us away from faith and draw us into his web of deceit against the great God we know.
So in our darkest hour we can actually say:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction.
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
And when we are so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despair of life itself, we can know that it was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
And for all of you who are a little like me out there: Part 2 of these thoughts of mine will focus on my struggle with authentically feeling joy (as well as confessing joy) in the midst of trials that weigh me down. 🙂