As we navigate this world, we must endeavor to identify the difference between truth and lies. It is of the utmost importance to lean not unto our emotions in this effort, for as it is stated in Jeremiah 17:9, "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" This means we must look outside of ourselves for identification of Truth. In my journey, I’ve found only one source that reliably, consistantly, and unchangingly identifies, defines, and reflects Truth: the Holy Bible.
We are up against a real enemy in this life. He goes by many names, including the devil, satan, and lucifer (please note I purposely do not capitalize his name. I realize it's incorrect, but if I can, I avoid treating him with any similarity as I do my Savior, Yeshua, the Name above all names). A very important identifying factor in a study of this enemy, is that he often comes as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He disguises himself as if he brings goodness, help, or even godliness. He is able to manipulate the wicked human heart into "feeling" as though whatever he is making it do or believe is right and acceptable. Leaning on our emotions is extremely dangerous as we navigate and make decisions. This is why insisting on comparing EVERYTHING against scripture (Truth) and engaging our intellectual honesty during that study (acknowledging when an assumption was wrong when presented with scriptural evidence to the contrary, for example) is SO important!
Often the lies he disguises as truth in light end up reaping the exact opposite of whatever the targeted individual is trying to achieve. He builds the lie with just enough truth to let it pass through the untrained discernment, and it wreaks havoc in the life of the often well-intentioned believer (isn't there a saying about good intentions...?). Let's look at an example:
We've all seen those bumper sticker-like posts that float around facebook. They usually consist of a dreamy landscape photo with a whispy-fonted message meant to strike the heart and inspire the reader. Sometimes they are direct quotes from the Bible, but more often they seem to be paraphrases, interpretations, or extrapolations from the good book. The danger enters when the latter is manipulated by that cunning and subtle enemy. Some phrases and ideas, because they are repeated so frequently, become accepted as Biblical truth, when they are simply lies in disguise propagated by the father of lies himself. I'd like to examine one of those lies:
"God will never give you more than you can bear."
First, let's analyze the disguising truth: "God loves you": so it can be seen how one might reason that He would not want us to face a burden that we could not bear. When we reason this way, however, we are leaning on what our heart tells us; we are reasoning with our emotions instead of our intellect. An honest intellect should ALWAYS tell us to go to scripture and see what the divinely inspired Word of God says about the issue.
Upon examination, it can quickly be ascertained that this statement can be found NO WHERE in the Bible! The closest concept would be when Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that "there hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Temptation is MUCH different than burden!
So, we've established that this concept is NOT Biblical, but what's the big deal anyway? If someone finds comfort in this expression, what really is the harm?
Our enemy does not work for naught. He works in subtle ways that most definitely cause damage. There is a real snare we can look at in buying into the message in our example: It establishes the lie that nothing in life will happen to you that you should not be able to deal with. Apparently this includes such horrors as the loss of a much-needed job resulting in the inability to pay for food and other essentials, the destruction of relationships like a marriage, or the death of loved ones. This tells the well-intentioned believer that if they cannot bear the burden of what they are facing, that there is something WRONG WITH THEM. This compounds the pain of the burden with guilt of inadequacy, a sometimes lethal combination. If there truly was no burden that could not be born, why would suicide exist, let alone be as rampant an issue that it is in today's society?
It is clear, upon further examination of Scripture, that even the apostles faced unbearable circumstances, and openly admitted how those circumstances affected them.! Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8:
"For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch as we despaired even of life:" These lamentations and ideas are echoed in Psalms 38:8, 38:4, and 1 Kings 19:7.
Unbearable burdens and circumstances will most definitely reach us in life. The important thing is to understand how to react when they do. Before we discuss that, however, I'd like to digress slightly and examine the nature of suffering; an inevitable result of being in an unbearable circumstance.
There are two types of suffering. The first is "unavoidable suffering" and comes in two forms. It can come in the form of someone or something inflicting evil and malintent on you. This can be things like suffering abuse at the hand of another, or in other words, enduring any will of harm by another person or entity. The other type of unavoidable suffering is inflicted by God for the purpose of refinement. This can be difficult at the time it is being endured, but will serve to improve the subject in one way or another at it's conclusion. This idea is personified in Hebrews 12:6 where it says "for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." God knows that growth is facilitated by working through difficulty, and He loves us, his children, enough to allow us to endure those difficulties in order to achieve the level of growth we’ll need to truly flourish.
The second type of suffering is "avoidable suffering." This is simply defined as suffering that most definitely can be avoided when one conducts themselves correctly. Things like poor decision making and buying into the lies of the devil constitute avoidable suffering. The guilt that I mentioned above, of feeling inadequate because you are facing a burden that you find unbearable, because you bought into the lie that "God wouldn't give you something you couldn't handle" is AVOIDABLE SUFFERING.
Simply put, avoidable suffering is endured when one is disobedient to, or ignorant of, the teachings of the Bible. It's not that God is a controlling force who insists we conduct ourselves a certain way because He says so - it's that it's literally BETTER FOR US if we conduct ourselves according to His teachings and plan.
Getting back to the issue at hand: because we've effectually established that we do indeed face unbearable circumstances and burdens in this life, what are we to do about it? If it's unbearable, how do we proceed? The answer can be found in the verse found immediately after Paul describes the troubles they faced in Asia as being so unbearable that they feared they might not even survive the ordeal. He continues in 2 Corinthians 1:9:
"But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead."
They were so severely downtrodden by the circumstances they found themselves in that they literally thought they were going to die, but it was at that moment of hopelessness that they were met by God who got them through it. The situation was not inflicted upon them by God; He was the One who saw them through it. When we are faced with unbearable circumstances, we must lean not on our own abilities to get through it. We must turn to the One who has already born the unbearable for us - Jesus. The Cross is the epitome of this concept. This is why a strong prayer life is so important. A strong relationship is built on time spent together (reading and studying the Bible to get to know Him) and open, constant communication (prayer). When you pursue these two things, God will strengthen you and reveal Himself to you more and more ("Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you..." James 4:8), which will increase your love and appreciation for Him. It's simply beautiful what our Creator has intended for us in fellowship with Him...
It is important to remember that we have ALL the necessary tools to sift through the lies of the enemy and discern truth in order to avoid these struggles. Don't buy into something because you see it repeatedly on social media, or even in church or from people you trust as godly authorities! When you stand before the King of kings on Judgement day, and he asks you why you believed a lie of the enemy, an acceptable answer will not be available to you. Each individual believer MUST test everything against scripture (and bring it to the Lord in prayer) for themselves to discern Truth (as described in 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good”), just as it is up to each individual believer to cultivate a strong relationship with our Lord.
Stay in the Word beloved, and be not deceived!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!