In many ways, this is exactly what apologists, teachers or pastors are up against in today’s culture—bumper-sticker theology. It seems everyone wants a quick fix to their problems, like slapping a bumper sticker on their car. “Give me a short quote that will answer my questions!” people demand. To perhaps “demand” them to dig a little deeper, wrestle with concepts of their perceptions about their worldview, and actually use critical thinking skills is an abhorrence to some in our time. What… you really want me to think?
Why is it that thinking deeply has become such a chore today? People seem to want :30 second soundbites to tell them the truth of significant issues that may affect them, or they want their pastors to tell them “everything is going to be okay,” even though it might not be (at least this side of heaven).
So, what do we tell people then, to satisfy those tough questions when bad things happen, or to help solve their problems? In trials with our loves ones and friends, we should “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) first before anything else comes out of our lips. Telling someone who is in the middle of great suffering that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is, in some ways, adding to the pain they’re already experiencing! This is not even Biblical, but can be implied if interpreted this way, as 1 Cor. 10:13 states, “…he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Notice this verse speaks only of “temptation” or in some versions it’s called “trials.” Anything that threatens your faith in Jesus Christ should be considered a “trial,” and “temptations” can also be things that can separate us from God, i.e. to commit adultery.
Does this mean that God won’t give us more than we can handle? Individually, I don’t think so, as I know enough through studying history that tells me differently. Plenty of people suffered beyond what I think I could have ever endured and not lost my sanity! Just consider survivors of Auschwitz, the man who lost his family in a car accident, a girl whose been sold into the sex slave industry, etc.
Here is how God does help us “handle” these horrific times in our lives: leaning on others in times of great suffering. God helps us deal with times of pain and temptation by encouraging us not to become isolated but to rely on one another, as the Body of Christ, in love and patient endurance. This a significant way God gives us His strength to endure—through His followers.
Trials and temptations force us to choose whether or not we will continue to follow God’s plan for our lives, or reject His will and ultimately, reject Him. God will work things our in our lives for our eternal good, and we have to walk in faith and trust for that which we cannot always perceive this side of heaven.
Jesus Christ certainly held onto to the hope of what was to come despite his torturous death. He knew God’s will was bigger than his circumstances, and he walked that road of suffering because of it.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted,” (Matt. 5:4). Comfort those around you who are hurting, weep with those who weep, and simply be there for others in loving, patient endurance. Now that is a good bumper sticker!