The apostle Paul wrote that Jehovah “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” (1 Cor. 10:13) Does this mean that Jehovah assesses in advance what we can bear and then chooses the trials we will face?
Consider the implications of such a view. One brother whose son committed suicide asked: ‘Did Jehovah assess in advance that my wife and I would be capable of enduring our son’s suicide? Did it happen because God had determined that we could endure it?’ Is there sound reason to believe that Jehovah maneuvers the events of our lives in such specific ways?
A further consideration of Paul’s words recorded at 1 Corinthians 10:13 leads us to this conclusion: There is no Scriptural reason to believe that Jehovah assesses in advance what we can bear and then, based on such an assessment, chooses which trials will befall us. Let us consider four reasons why we may draw that conclusion.
First, Jehovah gave humans the gift of free will. He wants us to choose our own course in life. (Deut. 30:19, 20; Josh. 24:15) If we choose the right course, we can look to Jehovah to guide our steps. (Prov. 16:9) But if we choose a wrong course, we will have to face the consequences. (Gal. 6:7) Were Jehovah to choose which trials would come upon us, would he not, in effect, be diminishing the gift of free will?
Second, Jehovah does not shield us from “time and unexpected events.” (Eccl. 9:11) Tragic accidents—perhaps with dire consequences—may occur because we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus spoke of a tragedy involving 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them, and he indicated that those fatalities were not as a result of God’s will. (Luke 13:1-5) Is it not unreasonable to think that God would determine in advance who lives and who dies as a result of random events?
Third, each one of us is personally involved in the issue of integrity. Recall that Satan has challenged the integrity of all those serving Jehovah, claiming that we would not remain loyal to Jehovah when exposed to trials. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4; Rev. 12:10) If Jehovah prevented us from facing certain trials because he deemed them to be more than we could bear, would that not add weight to Satan’s charge that we serve God out of self-interest?
Fourth, Jehovah does not have to foreknow everything that happens to us. The idea that God chooses beforehand which trials we will face implies that he must know everything about our future. But such a view is not Scriptural. God certainly can foreknow the future. (Isa. 46:10) But the Bible shows that he is selective when it comes to foreknowing future events. (Gen. 18:20, 21; 22:12) He thus balances his power of foreknowledge with his respect for our free will. Is that not what we would expect from the God who values our freedom and who always exercises his attributes in perfect balance?—Deut. 32:4; 2 Cor. 3:17.
How, then, are we to understand Paul’s words: “God . . . will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”? Paul here describes what Jehovah does, not before, but during trials.* The apostle’s words assure us that no matter what trials may arise in our life, Jehovah will sustain us if we trust in him. (Ps. 55:22) Paul’s comforting words are based on two fundamental truths.
First, the trials we face are “common to men.” Our trials, then, are common to human experience. Such trials are not beyond our capacity to bear—provided we rely on God. (1 Pet. 5:8, 9) In the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul refers to the tests that Israel faced in the wilderness. (1 Cor. 10:6-11) None of those trials were beyond human experience or above the ability of faithful Israelites to bear. Paul four times says that “some of them” disobeyed. Sadly, some Israelites gave in to wrong desires because they failed to rely on God.
Second, “God is faithful.” The record of God’s dealings with his people demonstrates that he gives his loyal love to “those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deut. 7:9) That record also shows that God always keeps his promises. (Josh. 23:14) In view of his past record of faithfulness, those who love him and obey him can trust that he will keep this twofold promise regarding trials they may face: (1) He will not allow any trial to develop to a point that would make it impossible to bear, and (2) “he will . . . make the way out” for them.
How does Jehovah make the way out for those who rely on him in the face of trials? Of course, if it be his will, he can simply remove a trial. But recall Paul’s words: “He [Jehovah] will also make the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” Hence, in many cases, he makes “the way out” by providing what we need so that we can endure trials successfully. Consider some of the ways that Jehovah may make the way out for us:
He “comforts us in all our trials.” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4) Jehovah can soothe our mind, our heart, and our emotions by means of his Word, his holy spirit, and the spiritual food dispensed by the faithful slave.—Matt. 24:45; John 14:16, ftn., Rom. 15:4.
He may guide us by means of holy spirit. (John 14:26) When trials arise, the spirit can help us to remember Bible accounts and principles and then discern the wise steps to take.
He can use his angels in our behalf.—Heb. 1:14.
He can help us through fellow worshippers who by their words and deeds can be “a strengthening aid” to us.—Col. 4:11, ftn.
What, then, may we conclude about the meaning of Paul’s words recorded at 1 Corinthians 10:13? Jehovah does not pick and choose the trials we face. But when trials do arise in our life, we can be certain of this: If we fully trust in Jehovah, he will never allow our trials to go beyond the limit of human endurance; he will always make a way out so that we can endure them. What a comforting thought that is!
The Greek word rendered “temptation” may denote “test, trial.”