I often enjoy the posts on the satirical website BabylonBee.com. Many times the BabylonBee satire relates to Christian faith, and that is true of the one posted on October 8, 2022. It tells the fictional story of two friends named Brad and Vince. Brad was suffering after losing his job and being diagnosed with lupus. Vince tried to “comfort” him by saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle in life.” Brad was suspicious that “Vince isn’t real accurate with these Bible quotes.” I agree with Brad that we can misuse the Bible when trying to comfort someone.
Vince was apparently using I Corinthians 10:13: “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.” (ESV) First, let me point out that the verse does not say that God gives you these trials and temptations. James 1:13 tells us, “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.” In other words, God does not “give” us “more than we can handle in life.”
With that clarified, we can agree that the tempter, Satan, certainly tries to give us more trials and temptations than we can stand. In the BabylonBee satire, Brad decided to check the Bible for himself. His reaction was, “Wow. Like half the characters in here just lay down and beg to die at some point…Moses, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job – all tell God they wish they could just cash it in. Then you have the Psalms of David – the man apparently lived half his life in total despair.”
As Brad realized, even though God doesn’t give us the bad things in life, He doesn’t always protect us from them. God gives us the good things. James 1:17 says, “Every good give and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” The problem comes when we blame God for the bad things and then try to face them on our own. Again, James 1:12 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
I like the way the BabylonBee satire ends. “Brad was sharing with Vince the good news that sometimes, the place where you are completely crushed and defeated is the easiest place to hear God speak.” That’s it! God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but if we allow it, those things can bring us closer to Him as we realize we can’t handle them by ourselves.
We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.
“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.
Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”
This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.
First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.
Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.
There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.