Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is it True That God Will Not Allow Me to Face Something Beyond What I Can Bear?

1 Cor 10:13: 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.

Every now and then a client will come in to my office and tell me that the Bible says that God will not allow them to face a trial that he or she cannot bear. This is absolutely not what the Bible says! The actual verse that they are referring to, 1 Corinthians 10:13, states that God will not allow us to be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear. Those are two different things entirely.

The way many people interpret this verse implies that people do not need God other than for Him to be their personal gatekeeper and judge of what they can bear. In reality, God often has us face insurmountable circumstances in order to draw us into a deeper dependence on Him, to glorify Him, to allow Him to teach us something, to allow us to be able to have a deeper compassion for others, or for myriad other reasons. The point is that He DOES allow us to face circumstances beyond what we can bear alone, but there is no circumstance that is bigger than what He can bear. If we depend on Him and allow Him to work in our lives, we can overcome anything!

If we take a look at Job, we can get pretty clear idea that this is true. Job was a man of God. He routinely made sacrifices to the Lord both for himself and for his own children. God and Satan had a talk, and because Job had such faith, God recommended that Satan take a look at him. Satan attacked. Job lost all his cattle (his means of making money), his camels (his means of transportation and also making money), and all his children (his heart). All that was left was his wife, a few friends, his relationship with God, and his health. Satan attacked again and took his health. Now, if ever there was a hopeless situation, Job faced it! Is this situation beyond what Job could have borne? I believe it was. He was left with nothing, and after a long struggle in his faith, he grew tremendously, learned great lessons from the Lord, and everything he lost was restored two-fold. In this example from the old testament, we see that God really does allow us to face trials that are beyond what we can bear!

This verse, however, is actually speaking of temptation. God is in control, and although He does not tempt us (that would be against His holy and righteous nature), He provides alternative ways out of temptations other than simply caving in to the temptation.

One way to look at temptation is through the lens of Patrick Carnes’ Addiction Cycle. Carnes states that our addictions come from family wounds, which lead us to feel shame. In order to rid ourselves of that feeling of shame, we fantasize about what we could do to remove that shame. We dwell on getting rid of the pain of shame and our minds become preoccupied with the notion that whatever substance we choose will rid us of our shame. The phase in the cycle is ritual. This is where we obtain our substance of choice and get ourselves ready to indulge. We might buy from the same person, go to the same website, set up our room in a certain way, travel to the place where we normally indulge, all to get ready to fully indulge ourselves in our temptation. The next step is acting out, which is using the substance or going through with the behavior. Our shame is usually satisfied, FOR A LITTLE WHILE. Then the final step occurs. It is the step of despair. This stage involves feeling the shame again, knowing that our indulgence didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, and an overall bad feeling. The cycle begins again when we begin fantasizing again about what we can do to get rid of the feeling of despair. Carnes’ Cycle of Addiction looks like this:

Why would I bring up the cycle of addiction when I speak about temptation? Every one of us is addicted to sin, and Satan tempts us with sin all the time. Knowing that we face this cycle every time we are faced with temptation can help us to overcome our temptation.

God can intervene at any point in the cycle of addiction. He can help you to forgive your family wounds and get rid of them. He can remove your shame. He can refocus your mind to keep you from fantasizing that your temptation will solve all your problems. He can intervene and prevent you from obtaining whatever it is that tempts you. He can remove your opportunities to use, indulge, or give in to your temptation. He can move you from despair to hope. He can do all of this, but we have to allow Him to. If we expect God to help us overcome our temptations, it’s time to figure out where we are in the cycle of sin and ask Him to intervene there. Then we can ask Him to intervene and free us from the family wounds and shame that led us to be tempted in the first place!