No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13, ESV).
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” You hear it all the time. It’s usually said by people who aren’t having a hard time, to people who are having a hard time. It’s one of those phrases Christians use that, in a very spiritual manner, tells people to just put up with what is going on and try to weather the storm.
But that’s just not what the Bible says. I’m pretty sure the widow in 1 Kings 4:1-7 had more than she could handle. Her husband—the sole means of support for a wife in that culture—had died, and her two children were going to be taken from her and sold into slavery to pay off the family’s debts. There was nothing she could do.
Likewise with the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16. She was on the point of starvation: “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
And do you really think that Job wasn’t given more than he could handle? Or Stephen, when he was executed for the Gospel?
No. The Bible is full of people who were given far more than they could handle. But in all these things, the goodness of God shone through.
When people say God won’t give you more than you can handle, they’re talking about this verse. But what is this verse really saying?
It’s saying God won’t let you be tempted beyond your ability. But there’s more.
With the temptation, God will also provide the way of escape.
The longer you stay in a place where you’ll be tempted, the harder it is to overcome it. There are times when you are supposed to stay and resist it. But there are many, many times when you are supposed to:
Flee sexual immorality. (1 Cor 6:18a)
Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim 2:22)
Don’t be afraid to run away from whatever is tempting you! It’s not any less spiritual than staying and resisting. Rather, it’s something the Bible tells you to do to overcome temptation! This is why God provides the way of escape! But the Bible says absolutely that God gives you that way out!
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:14)
You’re tempted because it’s something you want. That’s a natural thing. Your desires can change, but they won’t change in that moment when you’re tempted! Changing your desires is a slow process, and it can’t be done in the midst of temptation.
Figure out why you want the thing so badly. Some temptations are merely excess of something: too much food, too much sitting, too much spending. There, the cause of the temptation is very obvious: these are natural desires that you just haven’t gotten control of yet.
But some things you desire are just unhealthy in and of themselves. Why do you want to look at porn? Sex and love are natural desires, but porn doesn’t satisfy them. The better your perspective of what real love and real sex are, the less appealing porn is. It becomes less of a desire.
Getting a healthy perspective on sex and romantic love is a great step to overcoming sexual temptation. Don’t be afraid to read up on these topics. It doesn’t make you a pervert or some sort of weird deviant. It means that you’re looking to educate yourself, to make yourself healthy in that area. That’s a good thing!
If you’re struggling with a temptation for something that’s unhealthy in and of itself, you need to figure out why you desire it first. What need are you trying to fill with it? How does that temptation fail to meet that need? What is a better, healthier solution to meeting that need than what’s tempting you?
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)
Desires are natural, but they must be controlled or they will control you. And you cannot serve two masters.
Further, when you’re tempted, ask yourself, “What is my way out?”
God is providing you a way of escape. It’s your responsibility to find it and to use it.
When you’re spending time with your boyfriend or girlfriend and things start getting a little too serious, you may have to literally escape. Get up, put distance between yourselves, and leave. It’s weird. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s the way out of that temptation.
When you’re on your laptop or phone late at night and you feel yourself tempted to look at some unhealthy material, don’t just try to distract yourself with Facebook. Turn off the computer. Plug your phone into the charger. Go to sleep.
When you’re in the store and you see something you really like, but can’t afford, leave. Don’t pay for it with your credit card. Don’t steal it. Just leave.
When you’re talking with friends and someone mentions a person you don’t like, change the subject. Don’t start talking about all the things you don’t like about them. Don’t talk about that person.
When you’re buying dinner someplace, you don’t have to eat it all there. Get a to-go box and take half home—you get two meals for the price of one, and you don’t overeat.
When someone insults you and just makes you furious, don’t hit the person and don’t answer insults with more insults. Just walk away.
When you really don’t want to do your homework, don’t keep thinking about it while you play on your phone or watch TV. Get up, get out of your house, go to the library and do your work. Turn off your phone if you have to.
There is always a way out.