“God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle,” another half-truth meant for comfort that has harmful consequences. This one at least is one that almost comes from scripture, adapted from a few lines from Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth. However, it is not at all what Paul intended for us to take away from those lines. In fact, looking at the whole of scripture, we do not find this idea. Rather, we find a God who wants us to turn to our God and others for help, not simply try to do it all on our own. Pastor Adam Hamilton says there is a better promise for the people of God, namely that “God will help you handle all that you’ve been given.” God does not give us our troubles but rather helps us through them, for there is no shame in needing or asking for help.
This holds true for the testing Paul speaks about in this short verse from Corinthians. Let’s break it down a bit, there in the first part of our verse, Paul says, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.” Often when we speak this half-truth, we are trying to comfort people going through hardships or trials in their lives, and testing sounds like another synonym for a hardship or trial. However, like all things in scripture, you should always be wary of plucking verses out of their context because that leads to meanings that aren’t true to the text. Paul uses the word peiramos which has been rendered as “tested” but can also be translated as “tempted.” Now, if we take a step back from verse 13 and look at the whole of chapter 10, Paul compares this young church in Corinth to the Israelite people in the wilderness after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. There the Israelites gave themselves over to idolatry and immorality, “causing them to ‘fall’ [...] and ultimately disqualifying them from entering the promised land.” They didn’t face hardships but rather the temptation to sin.
Now, think about Corinth, a port town in the ancient world that had all the worldliness and temptations of any port town of any age. There are pagan temples on every street corner. Almost all the meat in the market “came from an animal that had been sacrificed to a pagan god.” Plus, temple prostitutes were common in the ancient world, and in fact that is the very sexual immorality Paul alludes to in this part of his letter. No wonder the Roman world used “‘to live like a Corinthian’” as a byword for debauchery and drunkenness! In the middle of all of this, you have these newly minted Christians trying to live according to the Spirit and give up their old ways, but at the same time, all these temptations were constantly around them. Imagine, if you will, that you decide to become vegan in beef country Wyoming. Imagine that you decide to become sober when all your friends still drink. The temptation to fall into old ways is ever-present. The Corinth church is being tested, they are being tested by temptation, rather than hardship and suffering.
Here Paul steps in to say that temptation is nothing new and common to us all, but good news, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” Paul is saying that when we are tempted, like these Corinthians were, God will give us a way to endure and not give in to temptation. Usually, our problem is less seeing God’s way out but instead taking the way offered. I will also add that God does not give us these temptations as I think we do a well enough job of tempting ourselves. For myself, I can think of many a meal where I thought what’s the harm of just one more taco or just another slice of pizza… Then, late at night, lying awake with some heartburn or indigestion, I come to regret my earlier decision to give into my own temptation…
Hardships and adversity are common to us all as well, but to suggest that God would give us such things misses the mark of the story scripture tells us. As we talked about with the half-truth “Everything Happens for a Reason,” do we really want to say that God is giving or causing all the bad things in our lives? That somehow God is causing us to suffer but not so much that we break? I don’t see how we could possibly get that from the Bible or from our common experiences! There are people this whole world over that cannot handle all that life has handed them on their own. People break and buckle and crack and shatter under the loads that no one person was ever meant to bear. Look at what our scriptures do say in those lines from the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength.” Psalm 46 declares our God is “a very present help in trouble,” even if that trouble involves the very world falling apart all around our heads!
When we tell people this half-truth, that you can handle things on your own because that’s what this half-truth is saying, essentially, “You’ve got this!” When the truth is no, none of us have got this. In fact, this half-truth can shut down seeking help in the first place: “Are you being abused? Stick it out! God believes that you can handle this! Are you depressed? You just aren’t trying hard enough, cheer up!” Half-truths like these keep people trapped in bad situations and keep them from getting help from doctors, therapists, and their God-given community. No one should go it alone. God doesn’t send us through life alone, God walks with us through all the trials and hardships of life. Jesus became one of us, walked through this life like us, and even faced death and suffering to break their power and end their claim as things that define us.
We will face hard things, as another psalmist shares, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” but “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV). The psalmist presumes that they will face dark valleys. The psalmist doesn’t expect that God will prevent those valleys from popping up on our journey through life, but the psalmist does trust that God will be right there with us through them. Our faith, our trust in God, is one of the most important helps we have in bad times and in bad situations. Nowhere does scripture or God say that you are expected to get through those things independently, so don’t.
Instead, recognize where and when you do need help and ask for it. There are times when you will need help from God and the people God has blessed to be a support, like doctors and therapists. In fact, I don’t know how many of you need to hear this, but I am going to share it anyway: I see a therapist every month. I have a covenant group of fellow clergy that I meet with every week. I have a mentor that I check in with once a month. In other words, I do not do this alone, and shouldn’t either. We need people, we “need family, friends, neighbors, pastors,” and siblings in our church family “who come alongside us to carry us through our adversity.” God is present in those supports to help us through the hard things, the bad things, the things that give us pain, and yes, those things that would break us. It reminds me of a benediction I recently encountered that I want to leave you with:
“It Is Me and God Too
May God bless you and keep you
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you
May God look upon you with favor and grant you peace
Know that someone sees you
It is me
Know that someone values your work
It is me
Know that someone prays for you
It is me
Know that someone is with you always
It is me
And God too
 Adam Hamilton, Half-Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016), 94.
 Ibid.,, 81.
 Andy Johnson, “1 Corinthians,” in Wesley One Volume Commentary, eds. Kenneth J. Collins and Robert W. Wall (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020), 736-756.
 Hamilton 2016, 81.
 Ibid., 82.
 Hamilton 2016, 101.
 Claudio Carvalhaes, Liturgies from Below, 462 acts of worship: Praying with People at the Ends of the World (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020), 57.
Pastor Paul Grossman