Out of Context
One thing that really annoys me is when people “quote” well known, feel-good phrases, but refer to them as biblical. Not only are they not God’s truth, but they may actually lead a person down the wrong path, leaving them disappointed.
One such statement that I have heard and perhaps you have heard, time and time again, is “God never gives us more than we can handle.” First of all, that is found nowhere in the Bible. Secondly, it is just not accurate but people will say it when they want to encourage a friend or make themselves feel better about their own circumstances. The actual Bible verse that some may use to support it is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (New International Version). The context of that verse is temptation, not suffering in our own lives. We can choose a way out of temptation, according to Paul’s words, but we can’t choose a way out of suffering. In other words, God may actually allow (not give) us more suffering, or losses, or disappointment than we think we can take. Evidence of this are the cases where someone loses a marriage, a job, and a home (or even a child) all within the same year. Such was the case with Job from the Old Testament, even though Job never cursed God or told him that he gave him more than he could handle. On the other hand, it is not accurate to say that God must not be caring or omnipotent if he would allow one to face so much adversity. Hello, free will? God is the giver of free will. Yet He is merciful, He is just, and He is fully sovereign over our lives.
The second misuse of words, out of context, is “God helps those that help themselves.” It says so in the Bible, right? Wrong! In fact, it goes directly against the notion that we need a Savior, in all areas of our life, or we could just pick up the latest self-help book or video and be done with it. God isn’t only our helper. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, our King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, our Rock and Alpha and Omega. If we believe that, and I do, then I pretty much usurp Him and all of those roles if pick up my own bootstraps, direct my own steps, and plan out the rest of my future. Experience tells me that doesn’t work, and may in fact cause me to fall flat on my face or worse: fall into the dark pit. I think people misquote and misuse this statement, thinking it comes from the book of James, on faith and deeds: “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (James 2:14, NIV). The context of this passage in James is addressing grace, sin, and how faith in God transforms our thoughts and our actions. However, God’s grace and mercy are not dependent on how much footwork we do or how many good deeds we perform. I, for one, am so grateful for that fact!
Next time you hear someone use these words or perhaps you begin to use them yourself, back up and remember the context from which they originated. There are so many other rich verses which are actual truth to pull from, we don’t need to use these feel-good promises. The Bible is full of truth which is really what we need to apply to our lives and to use when edifying others.
Just my two cents worth.