Misused Bible Verses, Part One: “God Will Never Put More On You Than You Can Handle.”

ImageMy brain has been stewing of late about writing a post dealing with the proliferation of misused, misapplied, and mistaken Bible verses. It seems I hear them in songs, sermons, and general Christian conversation. After much “thinkery,” my brain could stew no more, I thought I would start a “here and there” series on what I feel are the most misused Bible verses. Understand that some of these verses aren’t really even in the Bible, but are repeated so often that it is assumed that they’re in there.

In my mind, the undisputed king of misused Bible verses would be this gem (and its variants):

“God will never put more on you than you can handle.”

In other words, when you’re having a hard time, you can rest assured, they say, that God won’t let you break under whatever pressure is upon you. He will not let you succumb to whatever trial you may be enduring. It assumes that God is like Superman. Just when the building has caved and you are sure to be crushed, Superman arrives and pulls you free. Likewise, when circumstances become weighty on your shoulders, God swoops down to help lift them.

This “verse” is so accepted as true that it’s made it’s way into popular Christian music. For instance, contemporary Christian popsters Group1Crew happily sing in their song “He Said,”

“Don’t forget what He said; He said I won’t give you more, more then you can take and I might let you bend, but I won’t let you break.”

Did God really say that? This all sounds noble and heroic, but it is not necessarily true. Let’s look at why.

The Bible simply doesn’t say that God will never put more on you than you can handle. This is a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which 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.”

This verse is couched in the middle of Paul’s discussion of Israel’s problem with idolatry. Therefore, this verse has to deal with idolatry. The temptation spoken of was the temptation to abandon God for other things, in the case of the wilderness-wandering Israelites: sex, fun, false gods, and grumbling (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

I believe Paul was alluding to a couple of incidents as warnings to the Corinthians. One was in Exodus 32. There, we’re told that while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the rest of the Israelites got bored and began indulging in sex, revelry, and idolatry, culminating with the building of a golden calf to worship.God would’ve utterly wiped them off the face of the earth, but Moses stepped in as a mediator and turned back God’s wrath. We are told that, “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened” (Exodus 32:14).

Second, I believe the bronze serpent incident in Numbers 21:4-9 is implied. In the wilderness, the Israelites began to become disenchanted with God’s provision, and they began to complain. As a result, God sent “fiery snakes” into the camp to bite and kill the Israelites. But God provided a way of escape. The “way of escape” was God had Moses fashion a brazen serpent and place it high on a pole. Whoever looked at the serpent wouldn’t be killed (21:9).

In both cases, the mediator and bronze serpent pointed to Jesus. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that the cure for immorality, idolatry, and bitterness was Jesus. He was the way of escape from idolatry and its sinful manifestations.

None of this assumes that God won’t deliver his people from many uncomfortable situations and burdens. We know he does (Psalm 68:19). However, the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13 makes it clear that the escape is from sin, and not a stressful job, unpayable bills, or bad relationships.

God always puts more on us than we can handle. Sometimes the Lord, in his sovereign purpose, crushes us (Hebrews 12:4-12). He breaks us so that he can remake us. Think of how Jeremiah cried out in Lamentations because God has left his nation, city, and people utterly desolate and decimated. Think of all the psalms in which the psalmists cry out to God for bruising them. Think of our Lord Jesus in whom “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10).

Therefore, it would be untrue to state that God won’t place more on us than we can bear. He has, he does, and he will. But, he has provided One to bear the burden for us: Jesus.

If it were not for Jesus bearing our innumerable iniquity in himself, we too, would be utterly destroyed under sin’s unbearable weight. That’s where grace comes in. If it weren’t for the grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2), we would surely fall. This life, and our sin is more than anyone of us can handle. However, God chose to lay our burdens on the back of his Son so that we do not have to bear them (Isaiah 53:6).

It would be more accurate to say that God will never place more on us than Jesus can handle.

Christians are unhealthily obsessed with escapism. No one likes pain. No one likes suffering. No one likes to be uncomfortable in any way. But, all these things are part and parcel of the Christian life. The Scriptures say “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17), and “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

The call to follow Christ is a call to suffer. It is a call to bear certain yoke (Matthew 11:29), and carry a certain cross (Matthew 16:24). But, the majority of Christendom is obsessed with escaping Christ’s yoke and his cross. We are more concerned with being safe and comfortable. Therefore, it it easy and almost natural for us to expect God to deliver us from our burdens and thorns in the flesh. But, deliverance may not be God’s plan for us, and we must be, like Paul, prepared to accept it.

Unfortunately, too many pastors and Christian celebs parrot the message that coming to Christ and belonging to God equals comfort. I’ve heard many pastors say, when pleading with sinners, “Come to Jesus and all your problems and cares will go away.” This is false, unbiblical, and dangerous. What happens when God chooses to turn up the refiner’s fire in their lives? They become angry at God and disenchanted with his people.

In addition, the majority of televangelists and several celebrity pastors peddle word-faith health-and-wealth theology which teaches that it’s never God’s will to be burdened, to suffer, or to remain in uncomfortable situations. Therefore, we make up unhealthy escapist folk wisdom like “God will never put more on you than you can handle,” which is without biblical support.

God gives us one another to bear burdens. One of the sweetest things in the Bible is how God’s people are there to bear one another’s burdens. Far from providing an Easy Street escape, God often provides others to help us shoulder the load. Indeed, Galatians 6:2 encourages believers to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

In conclusion, it is popular to believe that God will not place more on us than we can handle. However, there is ample scriptural evidence to suggest otherwise. An unbiblical escapist mentality is often the culprit. Harboring novel interpretations of Scripture does not produce hope, rather it produces hopelessness when our false expectations are not realized.

NEXT TIME we’ll examine other Bible verses that are commonly misinterpreted, misapplied,and misrepresented.


28 thoughts on “Misused Bible Verses, Part One: “God Will Never Put More On You Than You Can Handle.”

  1. Thank you Roger for expounding on this very idea. I have run across this problem in talking to people who have not been grounded in Bible truth and I have been guilty in the past of thinking that God would not put more on me than I can handle even though at times I knew I had more than I could handle. Then when you try to minister to the unsaved or the saved they ask you this same question of why? I thought God would never put more on me than I can handle. I at times have not known exactly how to approach this question. Now I know how to handle this. We are here on this earth to learn and serve the Lord even teaching those around us that in all things the answer is always in the power, sovereignty and love of Jesus.

      • I am wondering just what version of the Bible you are quoting. Some of still use the King James Bible and if you will check, a lot of verses in some of the other Bible’s are not comnpatable. I have spent hours comparing verses from other versions and have been very upset with the negligence of not sticking to the fact.
        One version…say….John 3-16 For God so loveth the world he gave his son to die etc. Okay. Which son? his oldest,? His youngest? King James version says, His only begotten son. .

  2. Pingback: Misused Bible Verses, Part One: “God Will Never Put More On You Than You Can Handle.” | David's Blog

  3. The verses before 1 Cor. 10:13 are about idolatry, and verse 14 even says “flee from idolatry”. so my question to you, could God not be saying he will not tempt you with the things of this world, such as riches untold. God knows all, knew you before you were conceived, so if He knows that riches would turn you away from Him, why would He tempt you with them. The devil would, but not God. In John 13:27 it states “and after the sop Satan entered into Him (Judas Iscariot). Why would the scriptures be speaking of avoiding idolatry, and then turn to speaking of burdens or more than one could handle. Seams to me that a loving God, who sent His son to die for my sins, wouldn’t place burdens on me. Yes He may test me from time to time, but I believe these tests are due to our letting the flesh take control instead of the Holy Spirit. Just because we are saved, does not exempt us from worldly things, which is what God keeps telling us over and over again to turn from. Just my thoughts.

    • Brenda, Your response raises an interesting question, but it is based on a false premise. First, and most important, God does not tempt anyone. In fact, James 1:13-14 explicitly and emphatically states, “When tempted, no one should say ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.” So the notion he might refrain from tempting anyone in his or her particular problem area is of no consequence. He doesn’t tempt us in any respect. So, you are correct temptation comes from the flesh (James 1:14, above) or the Enemy who is prowling around ready to devour us (I Pt. 5:8).

      Second, inserting burden into the text of 1 Cor. 10:13 is a misreading of the passage. The word used in that text is the greek for temptation, not burden. Admittedly, the word can also be translated as “trial,” but in the context of the passage it simply does not make sense to shift from a discussion of idolatry to general trials of life and back again to idolatry in verse 14. What the Apostle is communicating when he says “except what is common to man” is to ensure the Believer that his or her particular struggle with idolatry is not new (after all Ecclesiastes tells us there is noting new under the sun, this includes sin and temptation).

      So, your penultimate sentence is right on point, “Just because we are saved, does not exempt us from worldly things, which is what God keeps telling us over and over again to turn from.” However, your rationale that God loves us, ergo he doesn’t place burdens on us is doctrinally unsound. How, then do we explain hardships in this life that have noting to do with sin or temptation? By your logic, if I have a burden, then God does not love me or at least doesn’t love me enough to protect me. This is contrary to passages like John 9:1-3 (As He [Jesus] was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.) and the entire book of Job.

      For what its worth, this is not just my two cents. It is a vital theoloigical flaw in our modern Western Christianity. God loves us, but He will also let trials come, trials that are way past what we can bear on our own. Trials that allow us to say with the Apostle, his strength is made perfect in our weakness.

  4. It simple to understand. The verse isn’t interpreted wrong at all. Your an obvious nonbeliever, a true believer has peace that only comes from God. We don’t believe that living now in the present, that its only going to be the only life we have but have eternal life which the verse is also talking about. Then again your a nonbeliever so we cant expect you to understand it.

  5. Roger good words brother! A friend of mine and I have been tossing around the idea of doing this exact same thing in a book. The problem is we didn’t want to do that because EVERYONE writes (sells) a book in Christianity. Nothing wrong with making a buck I know but sometimes it seems like they are all just saying the same thing over and over. Anywho we are thinking about doing a blog as well with our own thoughts. We have lots more “clichés and misuses” we wanted to tackle. perhaps we can share ideas? link to one another? Let me know and we can discuss further if you would like

  6. Loved this blog! Thanks for your well-thought out response. In the future I would love if you tackled the common notion of being ‘good stewards.’ My friends often say they won’t do certain things (like have more children) because they are being ‘good stewards’ of their money. I can only assume they are referring to the parable of Talents but since that is about multiplying what God has given you it makes little sense to me when Christians use it to talk about what they are NOT going to do.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this, because I had a close friend who was going through the lost of her husband and she was like the saying where “God wont put more on u than u can bare” I just think it’s not true or misread because losing my husband seems so unbearable to at times I don’t know what to do. So, I decided to do some research and see about this quote and i’m glad I did because it has really been misread and misused and I really enjoyed reading this blog once again it really gave me some really good insight of what the bible really states and means.

  8. Pingback: The Misused Bible Verses series | The Rural Reformission

  9. I have not heard anyone say this better. Very well stated and the scripture reference helped a lot in this understanding. It amazes me how much you think you know something until it is brought into the light. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Very well said and so simplified even unto a child… I am so glad you decided to make this blog, because there are many people that’s taking the Inspired word of God out of content to stroke their situation. However, that is not the will of God. His will is that we receive and understand the truth of who He is and how much he loves all of his children, that we will be caught up to be with him one day.
    Blessings to you

  11. This is beautiful and awesome!
    Some Christians commit suicide because life is more than they could handle. God might have given them ways out, talking to other people, therapy, etc, but they didn’t get it. I agree with your assessment.

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