If I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase, well, actually, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now, because I’d be somewhere warm on vacation.
I think (please correct me if I’m wrong) this is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 10:13-
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;
But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
But with the temptation will also make the way of escape,
That you may be able to bear it.
Now, I am no theologian (and I don’t play one on TV). What I can say is this, Paul is using a Greek word for temptation here (for you Greek scholars the word is peirasmos) that is a general term and can be applied to any kind of trial that comes upon a Christian, whether a temptation to sin or a testing of one’s faith (God tests His people, but does not tempt us to sin).
So while it may be correct that the popular phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle” is applied to a testing of your faith or a trial you are going through as a Christian, the phrase itself implies that the strength to handle our temptation comes from us, and this is clearly incorrect.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man.” Every trial or temptation we face may seem more difficult than anything anyone else has ever experienced, but rest assured, others have had and still do carry burdens just as heavy as ours.
Paul goes on to tell us, “But God is faithful…He provides the way of escape.” There is not a new and different way to escape each temptation, but there is only one “way of escape.” That “one way” is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus taught the disciples in Mark 14:38 to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” We also are not promised that we are to escape ever having to face temptation. The “way of escape” is not God rushing in to remove the temptation from us, but it is being able to face the temptation, with Christ. We are able to go through it, not in our own strength, but in His. God strengthens those who are His, those who walk with Him and seek Him in prayer.
“He provides the way of escape.” The work of salvation is all God’s work. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…” (Philippians 1:6) This is not to say we have no responsibility in this life. We are not to act as if we have no work to do in this life. God begins the work, and continues to work both in us and through us.
For the record, it has always troubled me that people frequently say “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I am sure it is usually said because people don’t really know what to say, and because it sounds reassuring. For me, it isn’t. I do know “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know no temptation is too much for God. Most days I know I am going through more than I could ever handle, if I were on my own. But God’s still small voice quiets my heart and steadies my resolve. He strengthens me. He provides Jesus to me. I trust Him wholeheartedly. Daily, His faithfulness continues to amaze me. He allows more than I can handle to draw me to Him; to glorify Himself by showing His strength in my weakness. (Just two among many other reasons, most of which I am not yet privy to.)
What do you think of the phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle”? When do you find yourself using it?