Honestly? Trials Are Sometimes More than We Can Bear

There are good reasons to stop telling ourselves and other victims of suffering that God will never give us more trials than we can bear. The statement makes the speaker sound pious and is reputed to have Scriptural origin, but there is no Bible verse which precisely states such a promise. We will soon look at the text which is misquoted to make it say that.

Illustration by George P. Sanderson
Illustration by George P. Sanderson | Source

Meanwhile, think of a few traumatic situations in which we are likely to hear someone say “God will not allow you any more than you can bear.”

  • The woman has just heard from her doctor that the full-term baby she is about to deliver is already dead.
  • The teenager has been mandated by an unyielding judge to return home and live with a sexually abusive parent.
  • The business owner is charged with murder because the burglar who robbed him repeatedly died when he hit him on the head.
  • The elderly man lost his wife and his home to a fire set by his grandson.

Where do we obtain the right to deny individuals the feeling that their grief, trial, injustice, burden, loss or whatever they suffer is too heavy for them? Following are five good reasons that our well-intentioned message could be faulty and even damaging.

(1) The Text is Misquoted

The text containing the well-loved quote is 1 Corinthians 10:13*: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” It is specific about temptation. Temptation comes with a choice—to surrender or to walk away. When severe suffering presses down an individual like a tiger laying across the chest, it can numb the feet (no walking away), even threaten the sanity and the life.

Ron Edmondson1 points out that the one thing about temptation that can be applied to suffering, is the fact that God offers help. He explains that it would be correct to say, “God will allow more than you can bear—by yourself.” This may alter the perspective of the individual who is usually quick to use the false quote.

Mourning the travesty of war.  Photographer unknown. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Mourning the travesty of war. Photographer unknown. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) | Source

(2) We Can Hide Behind the Quote

When we realize that the sufferer needs help, what do we do about it? Some comforters hide behind this quote, not because they are irresponsible people, but because they have no idea how to help. They share the pain and hopelessness of the sufferer, and they choose to turn off their feelings, not knowing what else to do. They submit the line and the sufferer hears one or more of the following messages:

  • You can bear it, so don’t expect me to help.
  • You can bear it, so I will save my time and effort for my own trials.
  • You can bear it, because this is your turn to be overwhelmed with life’s pressures.

When people are suffering, the brain puts extra energy into keeping them functional. There may not be enough energy left for proper reasoning and interpretation. They may hear these cruel messages even from people who think they are helping.

(3) We Lie to Ourselves

It is possible to say out loud that we never have trials more than we can bear, while secretly doubting what we say. We may even cry while we say it, still refusing to admit that:

  • We are pretending to be stronger than we really are.
  • We may be deceiving ourselves into thinking that our spirituality depends on our confession of that statement.
  • We are neglecting our need for help.
  • We may even confuse other individuals who wonder why we are so able to bear our trials while they struggle in vain to survive.

More Burdens Too Heavy

Character
Burden
Moses
Too much work (Ex: 18:18)
Prophet Elijah
Journey too great (1 Kings 19: 7)
Jehoshaphat
Have no power (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Psalmist
Floods overflow me (Psalm 69: 2)
Jonah
Angry even to death (Jonah 4:9)

(4) Bible Characters Agree

The following two situations, one from the Old Testament and the other from the New may help us get real in admitting what and how we feel:

In the psalm which David is supposed to have written after he had Uriah murdered, he writes:

  • For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:4)

Paul, in a letter the church at Corinth writes:

  • For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Some versions render "burdened beyond measure, above strength" in the latter verse as "beyond our ability to endure." Both verses have the feel of honesty.

(5) Over-Sized Burdens Brings Benefits

There is one important benefit that we deny ourselves and others when we pretend that trials and burdens are not more than we can bear.

Paul continued in his letter to say, "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God . . . in whom we trust that He will still deliver us." (2 Corinthians 1:9)

When we admit our inability to bear our suffering, we free ourselves to rely on God to help us through the situation, or to provide peace concerning whatever the outcome happens to be. We no longer feel the need to prove our strength; but instead we allow God to demonstrate His strength in our episode of weakness. Plus, in the process of going through our trials with God, our faith stretches and grows.

Let's not fight the feeling when we think that we have burdens which are more than we can bear. Let's just cling to a God who may give us more than we can handle2, but will help us handle what He gives.

References

1. Edmondson, Ron: God Will Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone) (3/15/2009)

2. Crisler, Channing: MinistryU. God Always Gives Us More Than We Can Handle (3/01/2012)

* All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.


© 2015 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 67 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

A beautiful message, Dora, one I've written about before. I can sum it up in four words...let go and let God. Thank you for this important message.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, thanks for your contribution. A powerful summary!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 21 months ago from Pacific Northwest

Oh Dora, this topic has been in my thoughts all week or more. We talked a bit about the 1 Corinthians verse the other day at small group. Suffering and severe testing are made all the worse when we simply cannot make sense of it. We want to make sense of things so it will ease our burden. The other day I came across a quote by Steve Lawson which says "We must trust God, not only WHEN we do not understand, but BECAUSE we do not understand."

I have had some suffering in my time and I remember times when I cried out, "Lord, this is too much." I was right in the sense that I couldn't bear it in my own strength. But he enters in when we surrender, as you said. I can't think of anyone in the Bible who suffered more than Job, and Paul, and they survived their trials because they turned to God through the storms. There were doubts, fear, etc, but they took those things to the Lord. God revealed His glory to them all the more and their lives were transformed.

Blessings to you my dear sister.


paulburchett profile image

paulburchett 21 months ago from Ky

I liked your hub! Let's not forget the rest of 1 Cor. 10:13 KJV ; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Lori, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this title. So pleased to hear that you cried out honestly to the Lord, and I know that you're stronger for doing that.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Paul. You make a good point. I hope the thought comes through in the last section where I mention relying on God to deliver us. I appreciate you.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 21 months ago from The Beautiful South

I do agree Dora that "instead we allow God to demonstrate His strength in our episode of weakness. Plus, in the process of going through our trials with God, our faith stretches and grows."

Where would we be without God's strength? Great testimony dear sister in Christ.

^+ Glad that share button is finally working!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jackie, this is such a good topic for sharing among believers who have experienced God's faithfulness in times of crisis. I can tell that you have. Thanks for your feedback.


Telca 21 months ago

I believe sometimes everyday life with stressful situations can become a burden, often times much more than a person can bear without an intervention. We need help not only when we have trauma or a painful incidents, but the everyday situations grow on us and prevent us from seeing the beauty that God has provided for us. I believe that is why we ask for new mercies each day so that the everyday struggles do not overwhelm us and rob us of the beauty and privilege of being alive.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Beautiful observation, Telca. I appreciate your insight on everyday precursors to overwhelming burdens. Thanks for sharing.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 21 months ago

Your hub reminded me of this precious truth:

"When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone." -James 1:13,14


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for that verse. It's also a very good reason not to tell people about God giving them what they can bear. Not knowing their mindset, we may encourage them to blame and doubt God. I appreciate your contribution.


Joseph O Polanco profile image

Joseph O Polanco 21 months ago

You're very welcome :)


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

what a wonderful hub MsDora.. we blame and doubt because it's easier for us to cope.. perhaps that's also meant to be without us realzing it.. great hub again.. a different take even for non-religious folks bless you


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Frank. Your comments are always so refreshing. You're a great encourager.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 21 months ago from Central Florida

Awesome post, Dora. We were not put here to bear our burdens alone. You laid it out beautifully!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shauna, thanks for stating it that way. Helping each other makes our burdens bearable.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 21 months ago from California

Just an excellent look at this saying and at the feelings and fears behind it--I think sometimes this is said in an attempt to empathize, but it may actually minimize the other person's experience instead--


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas

You've shared an important distinction from what we may have heard when our pain was great and our burdens heavy. This really puts it into perspective.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Audrey, I agree. That's why it may be better left unsaid so we do not unintentionally make a bad situation worse. Thanks for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Peg, glad you appreciate this perspective. Thanks for your feedback.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 21 months ago from london

Interesting and thought-provoking piece, Dora. I agree that we sometimes need to be careful with what we tell others, and indeed we may increase one's pain, not help.

Wisdom is necessary in all things, even with telling the truth. One gradually learns all this and more, through the power of Faith, hope and charity, but most of all through the Light or descent of the Spirit through interior work. Much Love.


DDE profile image

DDE 21 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I faced many challenges and remained strong throughout my struggles. Hanging on to what may never be is not how I live my life. I know in some situations I tried to be strong when I was not. Thank you for this lovely hub.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, thank you for your kind words and your wise insight. Your input helps.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

DDE, I give thanks for you that God's grace has kept you strong. Thank you for sharing.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

Thank you for sharing this MsDora, I have had this incorrectly quoted to me on a number of occasions.....there is a big difference saying , "..not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you are able.." than "..never give us TRIALS more than we can bear..". When this is continuously incorrectly quoted to you during difficult times you think ,"I wish I wasn't so strong then." We just have to know that God is always with us when we are facing difficult times.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Good point, Jodah. Thank you very much for your very wise perspective.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

It's a strange coincidence that you wrote this hub, Dora. I didn't know about it until I read my HubPages notifications a short time ago, but I was thinking about the quote that you mention today. Its inaccuracy has always annoyed me, especially considering the horror and tragedy that some people experience in their life. Your idea sounds much more reasonable! Thank you for creating this article.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

Thank you for saying this. This statement and "This, too, shall pass." are often said with good intention but need to have much greater empathy behind them.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 21 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Unfortunately, much of the Bible have been misquoted, misused and misunderstood. There are those who blatantly use the scriptures to support personal or extremist views, some people though well meaning, can cause more distress by quoting the Bible out of context. Work like this is very valuable.

In my job, I've heard this particular quote so many times, and you are right, at best, it doesn't really help, at worst, it causes the individual more pain. You've chosen some of the best examples. Excellent work as always.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Alicia, thanks for your feedback. Glad the article helps.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Flourish, thanks for mentioning that line also. It points to the future while the suffering is in the present. You're right. It doesn't help.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Joe. There are so many situations one can of; glad you're pleased with the ones I mentioned. You encourage me.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Joe. There are so many situations one can of; glad you're pleased with the ones I mentioned. You encourage me.


nybride710 profile image

nybride710 21 months ago from Minnesota

I completely agree. As a Christian, this is something that bothers me. I think some people mean to say "I know it's more than you can handle, so reach out to God for help because it's not too big for Him." However, saying it the other way sounds dismissive of another person's pain.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Lisa, thanks for your comment. Your statement is more empowering than the regular quote.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 21 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I have always wondered where that saying came from, and have cringed when others have used it to supposedly give comfort to those who are grieving. I, too, feel that we sometimes misquote the scriptures to suit our own needs rather than really stepping up to the plate and learning from our circumstances. I like what you said at the end, that God is faithful to help us when we are in over our heads!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Denise. This misquote tends to turn off the sympathy and compassion instead of pointing the sufferer to the God who cares and helps.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 21 months ago from Northern California, USA

This is such an important clarification of a message that I hear so many people misquote. The truth, as you mention, is to stop trying to do it all by our self and call upon God to help us through our trials.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 21 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

An important expose' MsDora;

Indeed; why would the Apostle Paul say;

" ...Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ...." (Galatians 6:2 KJV), if we weren't supposed to shoulder that weight which is too heavy for our brother or sister to handle?

It's just too much to bear for one person to cope alone when some folk are going through the grief of those predicaments you have relayed in this wake-up article and need strength to help them endure.

Pinning and sharing.

R.Q.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Romeos. The verse you quoted is does prove that God intends for us to share burdens--another reason for burdens too heavy for one. I appreciate your insightful input.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 21 months ago from New Delhi, India

You highlighted a strong message in this hub, something all of us do experience sometime or the other in our lives.

All said, sometimes I wonder how much a human being can bear!

Even the Almighty must be appreciating the capacity of human beings ( in general) to face crisis like situations and still remain strong. And I believe 'He' chooses persons while giving trials.

Thanks for sharing this very insightful hub. Voted up!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Chitrangada, thanks for your input. I believe with you that He matches the trials with the individual--all the more reason to lean on Him when the trial seems too heavy.


ananceleste profile image

ananceleste 21 months ago from California

True,true,true. I used to get mad when that phrase was said to me. Once I started to let go and let God, my burden became more bearable. Sometimes is so hard to do so, but is not impossible.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Anan, thanks for your feedback. So glad you learned to lean on God; that's we should all do with or without heavy burdens.


lisavanvorst profile image

lisavanvorst 20 months ago from New Jersey

MsDora I thank you for your interpretation. I am in the midst of enormous stress that is physically making me ill. I always thought I had the strength to battle the obstacles and challenges I face, but I do not. I am putting my troubles in God's hands, something that many of us do not do.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Lisa, I sympathize with you in your struggles. I pray that someone in your path will offer a helping hand. No matter what, please lean on the everlasting arms of God.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 20 months ago from USA

This is the best explanation of this cliché, and the origins behind it, that I have ever heard. It's not at all helpful to tell someone God will not send them more than they can bear when they are in the midst of suffering, especially if their faith is weak. This might even drive them further away from God, which is the last thing we want to happen. Voted up and shared.


Shades-of-truth profile image

Shades-of-truth 20 months ago from USA

MsDora, I agree that it is horribly misquoted. Jesus even asked if it were possible, for His Father to remove the cup from Him - the agony of the crucifixion and death - if it were possible.

Great Hub.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 20 months ago from East Coast, United States

Ms Dora, I've been going through some troubled times myself and understand that people really want to say something that will help, just a little. And of course, people have said that to me. I think they mean to say that you have an inner strength given to you by God, that as hard as it all is, you will endure. I will not allow myself to get all insulted by a person who attempting to comfort. Though I did have a good laugh at your #2 - "You can bear it so don't expect me to help."

This was a wonderful hub so I'm going to share it. You've given us all a lot to think about.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ologsinquito, driving them away from God is also my concern. We just want to make them aware. Thanks for your affirmation.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shades, sounds like even Jesus felt that his load was too heavy. Thank you for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Dolores, of course the comforters mean well. We just want to help them consider the other person's feeling, so their good intentions bring relief instead of pain. Thank you for your valuable comment.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago

The statement is abominable. The logic of it is that God gives us our troubles, and that makes God look cruel, not loving and benevolent. Second, even if it were true, suicide statistics do not bear this out unless you believe suicidal people are weak and deserve to die. (My sister who committed suicide at age 30 was a good Christian woman.)

Another statement that grates on me is "she's (he's) in a better place." How do they know where the person went after death. We all need to be careful what we say to a troubled person. I think "I'm sorry for your _____ (loss, troubles fill in the blank)" is more comforting. Good hub, and I hope it makes people think. Voted up++


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Miz, sorry for the loss of your sister; Christians also need help with their burdens. I totally agree with the points you offer. Hope the article, plus comments like yours will help us wise up to the damaging effect of words that are thoughtlessly spoken.


word55 profile image

word55 20 months ago from Chicago

Hi MsDora, I'm catching up just a little on my reading here. This is a wonderful hub. You are so knowledgeable and full of inspiration. Keep up the good work. Thank you!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, so glad to see you around. Seems you have been quite busy, but we'll take you when we get you. Thanks for your kind comments.


Easy Exercise profile image

Easy Exercise 20 months ago from United States

MsDora,

Beautifully written and written in a manner that showcases we must draw close to God.

Voted up! And beautiful!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Kelly, thanks for your visit and your kind comment. Your summary is perfect.


Peter Wathituni profile image

Peter Wathituni 18 months ago from Nairobi

I love your new interpretation of the verse highly misquoted. We need to accept the bitter fact that we may suffer beyond we can bear and seek help from the creator.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 18 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Peter, this interpretation is not original with me; I subscribe to it as offered by Bible scholars. "Bitter fact" indeed, but true and reason for us to help bear each other's burdens. Thanks for your feedback.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 14 months ago

Wow , after thinking awhile I realize that its all been said here , but thank you for saying perhaps That its really okay to break down and lose faith for a time . Yes and at times the trials ARE too much to bare, its okay to just break down and cry . To scream out "why me ", Thank you for this one !............Ed


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ed, sounds like you experienced some relief. Yes, it is okay and honest to admit that the burden is too great; and free ourselves to cling to the help of God and godly people.


swalia profile image

swalia 10 months ago

A thought-provoking hub! Surrender to God gives us the strength to go through the traumatic and heart-breaking situations. Faith and surrender hold us together even in the most difficult of times.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 10 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Swalia, thanks for your supportive comment. Faith and surrender do keep us going.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 8 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

All the trials and tribulations that we encounter in life are a reminder that we are not the be all and end all of everything and we have Him to sort things out. Man without these tests would become just too evil.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 8 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Rajan, here you sound like a preacher. Well said! Thanks for your input.

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