I got a phone call recently that no pastor wants to get; a man in my church had suffered a massive heart attack and it didn't look good at all. Four hours after I got to the hospital to be with the family, he died. You can imagine the grief. This man and his wife had experienced a lot of grief over the years. I was reminded they lost a child when I saw them weeping over his grave after the woman's father was buried just a few months ago. I stood with this couple beside another casket when their daughter-in-law was killed in an automobile accident a few weeks ago. And now this precious lady who loves the Lord was dealing with the loss of her husband of thirty-three years. She asked me a question as we stood in that hospital waiting room: "They say God won't put on you more than you can bear. But, does God know when you're hanging on by a thread?"
Sometimes it doesn't seem like God knows how we feel or what we're going through. There are times when we don't think we can make it. The Bible is filled with God's people who felt that way. The Psalmist said, "O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before you. . . .For my soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to the grave. . . .I am like a man who has no strength, adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, who you remember no more" (Ps. 88:1-5). These are vivid pictures if you think about them. David himself cried out, "I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears" (Ps. 6:6). More than once he felt like God had abandoned him. That's the context of the chorus we sing from his words: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God" (Ps. 42:1). He was in a desert of depression and felt there was no way out. That's why he said "My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God'" (v. 3)? When you have nothing to eat but your own tears, you're hanging on by a thread.
And yes, God knows that. The very fact verses like these are all over the Bible tells us that God knows how we feel and has not abandoned us. When we're hammered by hurts He is with us and we actually have an endless supply of grace from which to draw in time of need. That's why Paul said, "No trial has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able, but with the trial will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13). (This verse applies to trials or temptations).
Now, these troubles are "common to man." Paul's first word of encouragement is that we are not alone in our affliction. What we experience is experienced by others. We need not feel our burden is such that no one has ever faced the same.
But Paul also says something about God and His faithfulness to us. Despite the fact that winds of adversity blow, God does not forget those whom He loves. He knows there are times when you're hanging on by a thread but "will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able" to bear. He will not allow a weight upon you that you cannot endure by His strength and grace. He will not test you beyond your ability and the help you have in Christ.
God is the one who actually provides "the way of escape." The picture here is that of a ship on a raging sea in the midst of a fierce storm. The vessel is bouncing about in the rough waters and the wind is blowing her straight toward the rocks. Nothing can be done and she is about to founder and be destroyed. It's stormy, dark, and all hope is gone. Yet, just as calamity is about to strike, an opening in the rocks appears and the ship skirts through into a peaceful cove where protection from the battering storm is provided. The ship and crew are safe in the cove as they whether the storm that churns round about them. The point is not that deliverance from the storm is God's way of escape. Rather, the way of escape is God's deliverance into the cove that one might endure the storm in safety. That's why Paul adds, "that you may be able to endure it." Christians face trials and temptations. Yet, God is faithful. He provides the way of escape to ride out the storm.
You say, "Okay, but what do I do? How do I get to the cove where I can feel like I'll be able to weather this hurricane in my life?" The answer is our thinking. We have to fight the tendency to think about nothing but the suffering we face and actually think more about God Himself; His goodness, love, grace, mercy, and purpose for us in the midst of terrible circumstances. God uses tough times to refine us like fire refines gold (1 Pet. 1:6-7). It is the testing of our faith that produces Christ's strength and character in us (Jas. 1:3-4). God uses hardship like a blacksmith's hammer and anvil to make us more like Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). We have to focus our thoughts on Christ and not the tragedy. And that means we have to trust Him. Isaiah says, "You [God] will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you" (Isa. 26:3).
The Lord Jesus is the way of escape; "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted/tested in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16). Let us cast all our care upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). If we can do that, then slowly but surely, that thread we're clinging to that feels as if it's about to give way will become a chain attached to an anchor that cannot be moved: the Lord Jesus Himself (Heb. 6:19-20). Yes, in spite of the storm, God knows, and the anchor will hold.
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at www.trueworldview.com.
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