A 21 year old Christian woman loses a brother to suicide and a mother and father to a murder/suicide within six months; a struggling minister’s gas, electric and phone are terminated at the same time due to a fire in an adjoining apartment that taints all he owns with the smell of smoke; the plant closes leaving a widowed, mother of four with no income. At this point, all of us are thinking in Christianese. You know Christianese, the vehicle used to fill moments of awkward silence. I just pulled out my English to Christianese phrase finder. Let me see if I can find some phrases to comfort these believers.
“Well, God never closes a door without opening a window.”
Translation: I have no idea what just happened
“All things work together for the good”
Translation: You’re at rock bottom, buddy, it has to get better than this.
“The Lord will never put more on us than we can bear”
Translation: You must really be strong for the Lord to put a whammy on you like that!!
The phrases sound good, but are they true? Anyone who has ever been in the merciless grip of real life has heard these phrases at one point or another. Most of us, if honest, will say that the phrases offered more questions than comfort.
The worst offender in the cliché café? “The Lord will never put more on us than we can bear.” The phrase undoubtedly comes from I Cor. 10:13 which says that God will not let you “be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Notice the verb – tempted. God realizes that all of us have an inborn hook for Satan to grab with temptation. “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires” (James 1:14 NLT) Satan brings the temptation, but he always brings just what we want!! We can’t win without God’s faithfulness. Trials and burdens are different. They begin on the outside to crush our will to go on.
Let me tell you a secret: God does put more on us than we can bear. Now, wait a minute before you stop reading. I’m serious. Can we agree that the Apostle Paul wrote I & II Corinthians? In I Corinthians, God will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able; in II Corinthians 1:8 (NIV) we have “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” Paul was under so much pressure and stress that under its load he admits that it went “above strength” (KJV) It was more than he could bear.
It hurts, but you must read a little further. This is not the end of the story. Surely a loving, living God has a purpose for our pain. Let’s look again at Paul. Paul tells the Corinthian church the purpose of unbearable pain. “We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally--not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead!” (I Cor. 8:9 MSG) The pressure teaches us that we don’t have the strength to bear the trial, we must lean on Him. The precious oil of the olive is only released when it is crushed. There is precious oil that God has placed in our lives that will only be released through pressure, burdens, heartaches and misfortunes. And so we “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:3 – 5 KJV)
The next time that someone offers you Christianese, smile politely and understand that God has allowed the trial to help you, not to destroy.