These words bang around my head like a rolled up newspaper. I never know when its coming or how hard it’ll hit. I only know it’ll be back to hit me or someone I love again and again and again!
The quote is in the Bible:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV)
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
While it is empowering for some, it is a stumbling block for many. This verse is harmful out of context. Blaming rather than empowering victims, challenging them to save themselves! Implying God causes misfortune and requires us to save ourselves.
I’ve heard this misquoted at hospitals, funerals and in churches. Many domestic violence, rape crisis and suicide bereavement leaders say these “bootstrap” theology words drove them and many other survivors away from God.
I was reminded these words are well-intended when I witnessed the aforementioned pep talk by my daughter’s teacher.
“I truly believe God NEVER gives us more than we can handle. You’ll get through this. God knows you can handle it! You may not think so bu God knows you’re strong!…”
We both smiled and nodded for 10 minutes as she elaborated. She was obviously choked up and very concerned about my daughter. She meant to encourage not discourage. This belief got her through many trials she didn’t believe she was capable of handling.
I felt oddly calm. No pouncing reflex. No low growls or evil thoughts. Being a pastor’s wife or blogging is mellowing me.
As soon as we were out of ear shot my daughter asked why Christians believed this, stating if we could handle it, why would anyone go to God.
I was so proud! God did not cause my daughter to have Crohn’s. God allowed it but didn’t cause it.
And least someone argue that my daughter and I are still surviving, what does that say to all the mothers who’ve lost children, women murdered and lost to illness?
So what words of comfort does 1 Corinthians 10:13 offer?
- “You’re not alone!” – After my brother committed suicide, I started a suicide bereavement group. Blogging and sharing my story has put me in touch with other victims of domestic violence, rape, abuse and mothers of children with Crohns. While I don’t wish anyone trauma, I am grateful to be part of a community.
- “God is faithful! You’re not alone!” – God will not leave you! 1 Corinthians 10 is a historical reminder of God’s faithfulness.
- “If it is beyond your strength, it isn’t a test from God! Satan is evil! Ask Job” – No test is beyond God’s strength! 1 Corinthians 10 tells us not to be boastful – we are saved by Christ. Verse 22 asks “Are we stronger than our Lord?” It warns us to avoid becoming our own idol.
- “Look for God” – God will be there! Christ promises to weep with us, count our tears and comfort us. God’s humor in this misquoted scripture makes me chuckle. How could a chapter with verse 32 saying, “Do not cause anyone to stumble…” be so misquoted? Satan!
- “God provides a way out so you can endure it!” – Hopefully a miracle but it may also be brain fog, dissociation or even death but God promises to stay with us and lead us to safety! Christ defeated Satan on the cross. I don’t know the future and have no idea the challenges ahead but I know God will be victorious! Amen!