Summary: This misquote is usually spoken out of kindness, but it can cause great confusion and guilt. God WILL sometimes allow you to suffer more than you can bear--but that’s okay, because His grace is sufficient!
So if you have a friend who struggles with lust, and he’s leaving on a business trip it is appropriate to say, “Just remember, friend, God won’t allow you to be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear, so resist the temptation!” If you ever hear anyone say they gave into temptation because it was more than they could bear, you know they’re lying.
But I’ve never heard people share this psuedo-scripture when someone is facing temptation. It’s usually quoted when someone is in the midst of painful trouble. That trouble may be in the form of emotional, physical, spiritual, or relational pain. Let’s carefully consider this question “Will you ever experience trouble, stress, or pressure that is more than you can bear?” I’d like to offer four observations about the statement, “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.”
I. FOLLOWERS OF JESUS MAY EXPERIENCE UNBEARABLE PRESSURE
Most of us would agree Paul was a true follower of Jesus. But we learn this man who was “in Christ” sometimes faced trouble and pressure so severe he couldn’t bear it–or at least he couldn’t bear it alone. Here is his amazing confession found in II Corinthians 1:8-10, We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships (thilipsis) we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us with your prayers.”
Paul could stand here today and say, “I’ve faced so much pain, so much pressure and hardship in my life as a Christian that I finally had to admit that as a sufferer I was powerless to help myself. I once heard the expression ‘God won’t put more on you than you can bear.’ That’s not true. There have been times I’ve been so burdened down with the weight of problems and despair I couldn’t bear it. I wouldn’t even be here today if God hadn’t delivered me.” In II Corinthians 11:24-28 he recounts some of the troubles he faced: Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Can we use Paul as an example of a Spirit-filled Christian? He told us to follow his example. And you can’t deny the fact he bore pressure beyond his ability to endure. So, the first point is to understand sometimes Christians hurt so deeply that it is more than they can bear. A few weeks ago, Dr. Howard Hendricks made an observation I haven’t forgotten. He said, “Sometimes life gets so tough that you don’t just hit rock bottom–you crash through it!” So, welcome to suffering. Now, let’s move on the second observation about this misquote.