I recently saw a post that brought up a well-known phrase that we often hear, and may often use as encouragement to someone who is going through hard times: “God said he won’t put more on us than we can bear.” But wait, did God say that?
Once while talking to a friend of mine about Christian sayings that we have grown accustomed to hearing but that aren’t in the Bible, this one came up. At the time, I had said that it wasn’t biblical and that it was not in the Bible. I too came upon where we might have taken it.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not |permit| you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, also make the way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13 KJV
This verse is not about suffering, but about temptations to sin. God won’t give a temptation for which we cannot pass the test, for he will make a way for us to flee that temptation through the power of the Spirit.
Unfortunately, I don’t know whether it’s because we live in America where it’s our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that we believe that we must always be comfortable. It’s our sense of entitlement, and our church culture has not helped this attitude at all, but rather fueled it with a pursuit of having our best life now, so that if any calamity befalls us, we blame it on the devil, or deny it as if it is not so.
We go about trying to accept an alternate reality. Is all of this biblical? Is this a demonstration of faith? Is this what the Bible means when it says: “calleth those things which are not, as though they were.” Romans 4:17b Or, Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21
I don’t believe this is a demonstration of faith. While we quote the Romans scripture cited above, we are not reading the previous phrase:
“even God, who |giveth life to| the dead, and calleth those things which are not, as though they were.”
This is the God in whom Abraham had faith. Abraham believed that God could call into existence what was not. God had promised to make Abraham a father of many nations when he was about a hundred years old without any offspring, and his wife, who had been long barren, yet, he believed God would bring it to pass.
We do not have the power to call things into existence that are not. If we did, would there be a need for hospitals?
Yet there is power in our tongue; with our tongues, we can destroy lives, or we can build up, but it does not mean we have the power to speak life or death into being. James, Jesus’ brother explains the power of our tongue:
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. James 3:8-9 NASB
I believe a true demonstration of faith is looking to God for help when our troubles come. God did not promise a pain-free life, but in fact, the very opposite. Jesus warned his disciples that they will have trouble:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV
The Bible is replete with the call for believers to suffer, yes, suffer!
…and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22b
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12
There have always been suffering for believers. Remember Job’s response to his wife who suggested that he curse God and die after losing his wealth, children and his body filled with boils.
…Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10b
What about Paul’s thorn in the flesh? After seeking God to remove it three times–not demanding–God told him that his grace was sufficient. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) Paul’s response to his suffering was to embrace that in it the power of Christ rested on him. He said:
Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
God’s purpose is to conform us to the image of his Son. This process is a lifelong process of enduring hardships that the trial of our faith “might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:7b