The Audio file below has many variations of this passage. You may prefer to Fast Forward.
If you have been a Christian for any length of time you most likely heard the passage from 1 Corinthians 10:13 quoted often. This happened recently to me. I recalled hearing long ago that this is one of several often misunderstood or misapplied passages in the New Testament. It is often used to encourage people but what if it does the opposite? I think we should at least consider looking at the passage so you can decide for yourself. You can read an alternative article from Biblical Counseling Coalition at this link.
I will use a Toggle to provide the various renderings of this passage from BibleHub.com below. I suggest reading a couple of the various renderings. The whole list might be a bit too time-consuming for those in a hurry.
Click here for various readings
New International Version
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
New Living Translation
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].
Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.
Good News Translation
Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
Young’s Literal Translation
No temptation hath taken you — except human; and God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able, but He will make, with the temptation, also the outlet, for your being able to bear it.
Why do I think the statement “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is often used out of context? Can we offer more concrete and useful encouragement to people who are suffering? We must admit that the above statement is not what the passages are saying. However, we can see how people can jump to that conclusion.
The word “temptation,” or peirasmos in Greek, can refer to a temptation to sin, a trial, or any type of suffering. Why would it be wrong to claim that this verse is addressing suffering?
As we all know, words have multiple meanings based on context. If we try to squeeze all the meanings of the original word into this passage we commit a fallacy. This is the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer. Yes, that sure is a fancy term for a fallacy but please continue to follow.
For reference click here to open a new tab containing the whole Chapter in NIV. Feel free to read various versions. It boils down to the same set of examples.
If we look at the context of the passage to determine what Paul meant, we see that he is dealing with sin, not suffering.
- Verse 6 speaks of those who “setting our hearts on evil“
- In verse 7, Paul says “Do not be idolaters,” indicating that the context of this passage is sin.
- In verse 8 this idolatry is defined as “sexual immorality”.
- In verse 9, as we read “We should not test Christ“
- In verse 10 and “do not grumble”
- Verse 12 admonishes “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” which continues the discussion of sin in the verse.
- Verse 13 continues to discuss sin in the context of these verses.
A clear reading of this text should lead us to the conclusion that Paul meant to convey the word “temptation” in this passage. All context is of the temptation to sin, not the trials, tribulations, or suffering.
God tells us in this passage through Paul that no one is tempted to sin more than he can bear. However, this passage does not teach a person will not face suffering more than they can bear.
If you have visited the sick and or dying you know that there will be a point a human, Christian, or otherwise can no longer bear. We may pass out or die from the suffering. This is the nature of the human condition and should not be seen as a failing on the part of the sufferer.
This is also true when it comes to pure mental anguish. While it may not be the direct cause of death I have seen it cause people to pass out. Anxiety and other emotional things can be horrific. Imagine hearing the news that a loved one has died. Worse yet, you are the one who finds the loved one deceased. This may be mental anguish but at the time I will tell you that it feels like more than one can handle.
Many sufferers feel that their suffering is beyond what they can bear. For these people, hearing the message “God will not give you more than you can handle” may mean to them that they are not good enough or that there is something wrong with their faith.
We are told to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Our focus should be empathy, not a guilt trip or a platitude. Otherwise, we may unintentionally make the one we seek to comfort uncomfortable.
I will stop for now. There is much more that can be said on this subject. The point is to show love to all who suffer. Isn’t that what Jesus would have us do?