More than you can endure?

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Another common and well-meaning misuse of scripture occurs when people claim “God will not allow you to face anything that you cannot endure.” This claim is used to comfort those going through tough times. It’s a nice thought, and on first glance it appears to be true. However, it runs contrary to the plain teaching laid out in the example of the apostles. 2 Corinthians 1:8b (LEB) says, “…we were burdened to an extraordinary degree, beyond our strength, so that we were in despair even of living.” The NIV translates “beyond our strength” as “far beyond our ability to endure.”

Early Christians faced many problems far beyond their ability to endure. While they maintained their faith and persevered, their bodies were tortured, broken, burned, destroyed. They did not endure. They were treated in ways no human could endure. Many Christians today face the same unendurable trouble. This is the kind of treatment that Paul is talking about and many of those seeking to comfort with the above concept are trying to promise something that scripture does not promise. Scripture actually promises the opposite. It promises us suffering. It promises physical breaking. It promises us death—if you die, then you did not endure, at least physically.

This error often springs from misapplying one promise and over applying another. The misapplied promise is God’s promise that we will not be tempted beyond what we can resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). While God will not allow you to be tempted in any way not common to man, and will always provide you a way out; and while the temptations you face will not be more than you, through the power of the indwelling Spirit, are not able to resist, this is far from a promise that you will not face any problem greater than you can endure. This is a promise that no temptation is too great; it is not a promise that no problem or affliction is too great—unless you mistakenly assume all troubles and afflictions are temptations, or that all troubles are sin generated.

The over applied promise is the promise that we will be preserved through affliction and that nothing can snatch us from God’s hand. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this isn’t a great and powerful promise. When I say it is being over applied, I mean in the situation above. While God has promised that I will not be lost or cast away—ever—He does permit me to be crushed or lost bodily. While he promises to preserve us spiritually through any situation, He does not promise to preserve us physically through any and all situations. Stop using the promise of spiritual preservation as a false salve of physical (or financial) preservation.

While, as a Christian, you will never face any temptation beyond your ability to resist—because either it is small enough and common enough or because God will provide an escape—and while you will never lose your salvation or face anything that can remove you from God’s loving hand, you can lose your life, your health, your physical form. Your body and life can be broken. You can be troubled far beyond your ability to endure, physically. However, even in this frightening fact there is a promise: “But we ourselves had the sentence of death in ourselves, so that we would not be putting confidence in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (1 Corinthians 1:9 LEB). When you face such trouble, you can be assured that it is to teach you to trust in Him. However, this is not trusting that He will never allow anything bad to happen. This is trusting Him to preserve your spirit regardless of your body; trusting Him to help you when your health and body are broken; trusting Him to hold you up when your body fails; trusting Him to move you forward in his service until he is ready to call you home; trusting Him to raise you from the dead someday.

While it’s tempting to use such thoughts to help the hurting, let’s stop misusing scripture and promising more than God promises. Face the realities of life and encourage those around us to do the same.

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