Love When We’re Over Our Heads
“God promises that He will never allow you to go through more than you can bear.”
Chances are you’ve heard someone say that. They mean it kindly. It’s something you hear when going through a difficult time, intended as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. But comforting as those words are, there’s a problem with them. God never really promised that.
Here’s what His Word actually says: “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 NIV, italics added).
It might be one of the most misquoted verses in Scripture—and the difference between the two thoughts shouldn’t be missed. God’s Word speaks specifically of His providing a way out when we face temptation, but it’s not a generality applied to all of the difficulties of life. If we think that way, we set ourselves up for a painful misunderstanding. What do we do in those crushing moments when life’s circumstances are more than we can bear? Do we give up on God? Do we stop praying because we’re angry with the way things have worked out? Do we think that He’s given up on us or is no longer faithful?
We need to take stay very close to His Word. He has promised, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus also told us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). God does promise His faithfulness in all of life. But that doesn’t mean the circumstances we encounter won’t knock us off our feet. And it’s ironically then that we’re in the best position for Him to help us.
In John Bunyan’s classic work Pilgrim’s Progress, it was when Christian couldn’t get out of “the Slough of Despond” that someone named “Help” came to pull him out. Our culture tends to believe that “God helps those who help themselves”—but that’s not in the Bible either. God isn’t into “self-reliance.” He’s into dependence. Jesus said about the Father, “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30). He also said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5, italics added). It’s there that a tough but comforting truth comes to meet us. God sometimes allows us to go through more than we can bear so that we learn the depth of our need for Him. When we come to the end of ourselves, He is quietly there waiting for us. And He is enough.
An old Puritan prayer teaches: “Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit… that the valley is the place of vision” (“The Valley of Vision”). God has a way of showing himself faithful when we’re in over our heads. Not the faithfulness of saving us from our circumstances (though He sometimes does that), but the faithfulness of saving us from the self-focus that makes us the centers of our own little universes. It’s why Jesus came–why our deepest need is for Him.
“He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” When we learn to rest in Him, we discover the help we need even when our lives have ended up in unexpected places. When we come to the end of our own strength, His strength has a way of lifting us, carrying us beyond ourselves, and bringing us to a place of delight (in Him). Psalm 68:19 (NLT) sums up the thought: “Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms.”