The Bible Doesn’t Say That…Does it?

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)….” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Talking to a close friend who has a family member hoeing a tough row should have made me think when he said, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Usually, as he laments his child’s mental illness and his inability to take away his daughter’s pain, I do little more than listen. I may add a few “Yeses”, an “I understand” or two but I realize, I am a board to let him bounce his thoughts off and we are comfortable with each other’s silences.

He was tired and overworked and when he said, “I know God will never give me more than I can handle,” warning bells and lights should have gone off but didn’t until a later day when I saw the same thought expressed on a bumper sticker. Theology on the bumper of a car?

Being in my own car with a broken radio, I had time to think, and I realized how untrue and dangerous this assertion was. When I did a search, I found the scripture doesn’t exist. One of the closest scriptures, there are several, is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Many of us quote or misquote scripture to fit our own devices but the Corinthians quote is about temptation…not about trials, tribulations, and futility. For someone who has suffered from depression during various times in my life, I realized that expressing this misquote to the wrong person could have deadly outcomes…as could another quote often used that isn’t quite Biblical but is Persian, “This too shall pass.” Having battled a mental illness for most of my life, I know that it will never pass. Your best hope is to have more good days than bad.

I disagree with Paul on many issues, but occasionally even blind hogs will find an acorn. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul was talking about Israel’s sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and grumbling. He isn’t talking about trials and suffering. So, when Paul writes 1 Corinthians 10:13 we must understand he is writing about temptation to sin and not about days that try men’s souls. (

Try to be logical for a moment. What is served telling a grieving mother or father who has lost a child or spouse in a traffic accident, “God will never give you more than you can handle?” What about a neighbor who has lost everything to a fire or tornado? What does it say to the victim of domestic violence, or of any abuse for that matter? Or a Stage IV form of Cancer? What does this say to those fleeing war-torn countries or gunfire in their school or workplace?

What does it say to the person mired in a deeply dark, gut-wrenching depression? What it says to me is that I might as well have pulled the trigger on the pistol whose barrel I once looked down. How many people have committed suicide because they felt God had abandoned them and given them more than they could handle?

Along the same lines is the suggestion that “I believe in the power of prayer, maybe you aren’t praying enough.” A subtle way of saying, “Your belief is not strong enough and that is why you are depressed.” You should not infer from this statement that I believe you should not pray. Just don’t attempt to tell a person sick or dying that their circumstance is due to lack of prayer.

As I traveled down my road toward “religious emancipation”, I was told this twice. Once, as my mother was dying from ALS, a well-meaning but bumbling man of the cloth told me that the reason my mother was dying was because her belief wasn’t strong enough and she wasn’t praying enough. “The power of prayer will heal her.” It didn’t and I hated God for a long time because of the misplaced words of this man.

Later as I suffered with clinical depression, caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, a well-meaning friend told me, “You can pray your depression away.” I found the power in prescription drugs was far greater than the power of prayer and once again I questioned “well meaning” Christians.

I know these people do not mean any harm, but harm is what they do. Suffering is a complex and difficult enough subject for us to understand as it is, without throwing in the unbiblical idea that God is somehow dishing it out to us based on how resilient He thinks we are. To be honest, even if it was Biblical, I would not agree that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” At some point we can all reach our breaking point.


Image: The Apple as the “forbidden fruit.”

Despite the use of a picture with a serpent and apple to illustrate my post, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the “Forbidden Fruit” was an apple. It could have been a fig, or grape, or pomegranate…or any other fruit. The apple doesn’t appear until the artistic renditions of the Eden story appeared in France, in the early 12th century. An illustrated psalter from the Church of St. Fuscien in northern France (1180–90) shows Adam about to eat a round fruit with what appears to be an apple stem.

Later the apple received outside help from Johannes Guttenberg and the inestimable cultural impact of the printing press. The 1550 edition of Martin Luther’s Bible translation incorporated the first “Fall of Man” scene, it was an apple-tradition woodcut by Hans Brosamer. With help from the printing press, the apple as the “forbidden fruit” became solidified in Europe and beyond.


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, and this is just an opinion…educated opinion, I hope. You are free to disagree or agree, just keep the comments “Christlike”.


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