Have you ever heard this one: “God won’t give you more than you can handle?” Oops. It’s not in the Bible. In fact, I’d suggest that is a particularly cruel misquote of scripture–my experience has been that God often gives us more than we can handle because it is in those times that we really recognize our need for Him. So what does the verse actually say? Glad you asked.
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.
See that the text is dealing specifically with temptations. It’s crucial to view things in their proper context. Have you ever been asked by a waitress, “How is everything?” Chances are that you understood–because of your surrounding context–that she was referring to your meal. But why not answer her question as asked? “Well, I’m really unhappy at my job. My boss is a jerk. And my next door neighbor’s dog keeps using my yard as a bathroom. I’m forever stepping in… Oh, and that reminds me, I’ve got this nasty toenail infection–puss everywhere–you want to see it? Let me just get this sock off, and…” She did ask about everything, didn’t she? For those of you with a bent for sarcasm, I’ve just given you ammunition. Apologies to the service industry.
Notice first of this verse’s surrounding context that the temptations we face are not unique. They are very common to mankind. Certainly some have succeeded while others have failed, but the point is that others have been here before. Next, notice that the focus shifts quickly from the specific temptation to God–God is faithful. His faithfulness has been attested to in the fact that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. The big but of the passage shows us how He will accomplish this:
But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
When we face temptation we need to be looking for a way of escape. We need to be looking to Him, because He not only provides a way of escape, but is the source of strength through which we can make that escape. In 2 Corinthians 12 we are taught that “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Where temptation is concerned, we need to take Him up on that.
This text also serves as a warning to believers in Christ. If God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, than we have no excuse for caving in.
How about some more buts about it? The old King James Version of the Bible actually has three buts in this one verse that really capture the emphasis–but such as is common to man; but God is faithful; but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape. God is active in the everyday lives of His people. Don’t miss that. Don’t leave home without Him.