“No temptation [Gk. “peirasmos” – a time of testing designed to lead to wrong doing] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
EXCUSE ME, PLEASE
“But if you had to live with a wife like mine…” “Listen, pastor – no one has ever had to face anything comparable to this at work before.” “But the other kids’ parents don’t make rules like mine do.” “Well, you’d have done it too, if he had said that to you!”
These, and a hundred and one similar protests are heard daily by Christian counselors. Boiled down, they all say one thing: “Please excuse me from my responsibility to live like a Christian, on the grounds that my problem is unique.”
But is it? Does God ever allow a Christian to face a test that is utterly unique? Even if He does, would that be an adequate excuse?
In an unmistakably clear reply, Paul says “No! You cannot evade your responsibility to think and act like a Christian by pleading that your case is unique.” As a matter of fact, he shows that no case is unique. Listen to his words in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to men.”
To begin with, let’s nail down one thing: 1 Corinthians 10:13 allows for no exceptions of the sort that many of us are inclined to make for ourselves. Our sin simply cannot be excused.
The reason why Paul declares that there are no exceptions is that at bottom all men in all times face the same basic problems. There are no special cases. That is why in this chapter Paul can appeal to the history of God’s dealings with the Jews in the days of Moses when writing to a Gentile church in Corinth that outwardly, at least, seemed to be facing quite different cultural problems. Looking beneath the surface of time, geography, language and culture, Paul said, “These things happened” to the Jews, but they are “examples to you upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Of course, he says the same to you and me today.
To be sure, there are unique features to each problem. No two situations are ever exactly alike. But what Paul insists upon is that beneath these features you will find that the problems of the Jews in the wilderness, the temptations of the Corinthians in the Roman empire, and the frustrations of modern day Americans are not significantly different. God has not changed; His commandments have not been altered; and sinful man below his modern sophisticated exterior is still the same.
Men today stand in the same relationship to God and to one another as they did in biblical times. Therefore, the message of the Bible is as fresh today as when Paul’s scroll was first unrolled and read in Corinth. Sinful men, who disobey the law of God, still find that God’s message of forgiveness in Scripture is the only answer to this life’s most fundamental problem.
That message tells of Jesus Christ who became man in order to live and die in the place of His elect people. He too faced the hunger, misunderstandings, hatred, discouragements and excruciating pain that we endure. He also knew the difficulty of making agonizing decisions, stark loneliness in the midst of a superficial and fickle crowd, the bitterness of betrayal by companions and denial by those with whom He had openly shared His love. Yes, He was “tested in all points … yet without sin.” If ever a man might have pleaded for exemption on the grounds that His case was unique, He might have done so. Yet He never shirked His responsibility to God or His neighbor. No, God’s truly unique Son became one of us, not only to save His own from the wrath to come by dying for their sins on the cross, but also to live a holy life fully satisfying all of God’s requirements on their behalf, so that His righteousness might be counted to them when they trust in Him as Savior.
Since He, without sin, experienced for us all that we must experience today, He knows that by His grace His redeemed children can follow in His steps. That is why He who knows our problems through and through from personal experience says: “There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to men.” If He says so, you may count on it! And you may also count on the fact that He will hold you responsible to meet each problem as God commands.
Christian, there are no special cases. Christ Himself has demonstrated that by His life and death, and He expects you to do the same. In a day in which the Freudian ethic of irresponsibility permeates every aspect of society, and men find it stylish to blame their sinful behavior upon someone else, Jesus Christ calls you to live a life of responsibility.
There is no ground for failing to “turn the other cheek” or to “do good to those who despitefully use you.” Christ prayed for you and died for you though you have been His enemy. He took the responsible course to Calvary.
When He took upon Himself the common lot of men, Jesus showed once and for all how God expects His children to live and die. So, Christian, throw off excuses, stop shifting blame to others, and instead, by the power of God’s Spirit, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling wherewith you have been called.”
WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER
When the doctor says “I’m afraid it will have to come out, but don’t worry, it’ll only be a minor operation,” perhaps you think of the words of the man who said, “Any operation on me is major surgery.”
All right – so he’s given you the report. The diagnosis is unfavorable and an operation is indicated; what do you do now? Stunned, you go home, tell your wife, and hope she’ll say something that will bring hope out of despair. Sure enough, she comes through:
“Phil,” she says, “it can’t be too bad. Uncle Fred had that same operation 18 years ago, and you know that he’s been the picture of health ever since.”
The next day at work you mention your problem to the boss. Tom assures you: “I had that operation myself and I was up and around in two days.” Bill, who works beside you on the assembly line chimes in:
“Yeah, and I have a neighbor who was back to work in less than two weeks.” Again and again you get similar reports wherever you mention the coming operation. And – it’s not long before the fear and apprehension are greatly lessened.
I once drove through the “Garden of the Gods” outside Colorado Springs. In this beautiful natural wonder you can see rocks balanced on a pinpoint and vividly colored scenery on all sides. As you drive along slowly, viewing the marvels about you, suddenly you are confronted with a problem: directly ahead of you looms a wall of sheer rock, and the road on which you are traveling disappears into what seems to be a crack so narrow that it looks as though you’d have a hard time driving a VW through it. Looking around for a place in which to turn and go back, your eye falls upon a small white sign. It reads:
NARROWS. YES, YOU CAN. A MILLION OTHERS HAVE.
And what do you know – a minute and a half later, a million and one have done it!
What makes us go confidently to the operating table? Why do we risk getting stuck in the Narrows? One answer surely is that we are helped to face such problems by the assurance that others have successfully done so before us. That is the second reason why Paul told the Corinthians: “No trial has overtaken you but such as is common to men.”
In our first discussion of 1 Corinthians 10:13, we noticed that Paul’s statement places our responsibility to handle life’s problems squarely before us. If at bottom our problems are the same as those faced by Christ and by other Christians, we can never plead that we must be excused from solving problems God’s way because our problems are unique.
But Paul is not merely calling us to responsibility by these words; he also wants to encourage us and give us hope. We think:
“If others have successfully undergone the same operation with little or no ill effects, it is likely I shall too. If a million other automobiles can pass through the Narrows, so can mine. If hundreds of other Christians have endured misunderstandings, have learned to discipline their children, have lived with husbands and mothers-in-law like mine, have walked through the shadow of death secure with their Shepherd at their side, so can I.”
That is the spirit men need to go on in a world in which there is plainly much to suffer.
It is true that problems, though basically similar to those of men in other eras, may take on a new complexity in our time and that they may multiply at a previously unknown rate. But Christian, you are not in this alone. We are all in it together. And God says you can solve these old problems though they may appear in new forms. Others have in the past, and by the help of God there are many others who in this complex, rapidly moving age are doing so today.
Remember, too, that Jesus Christ faced problems of a complexity that would stagger the most sophisticated IBM computer – and solved them without sin. You do not have to face problems as intense, as complex, as momentous; but you too have the same resources that He had. Calling upon the Scriptures three times on the Mount of Temptation, Jesus successfully thwarted the attempt of the Devil to divert Him from the divinely charted course that was to lead Him to the cross where He would shed His blood in the place of His people. Here He would have to suffer and die. Here He would have to endure the taunts of earth and the wrath of heaven. Here He would be treated as if He, the holy, spotless Son of God, had lied, blasphemed, committed fornication and adultery, hated, murdered. Here He would die for me. What love was exhibited in His steadfast refusal to gain the kingdoms of this world by taking a seemingly “easier” path!
And in that steadfastness – steadfastness after 40 days and 40 nights of fasting – we see the strength that came from the Word of God. Jesus did not act according to feelings (even the intense feelings of near starvation), but rather according to the Word of God. Truly when Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by all the words that come from the mouth of God,” He was giving us the key to solving the problems of life. Their solution lies in following the Bible, which He quoted, which sustained and guided Him successfully through the deepest trials. That same Book can do the same for you. Christian, no matter how serious your present problems may be, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, take heart! You are not alone. You have a sympathetic high priest who can enter into all your problems, for they have been His problems too (Hebrews 4:15). He knows your heartache. He knows your sorrow. He knows your pain. He knows! And through Paul He says in effect:
“Others – other Christians – are now facing the same problems successfully by my grace. I have done so before them, and you can too.”
When others around you who do not know Christ cave in under life’s load, you may stand. No, you must stand! For God has caused you to face the same problems that they face in order that He may demonstrate in you the wonder of His power and grace. When the trees outside are bent to the ground and the storm rages with ever-increasing intensity and the hearts of men are failing for fear, your heart must be like the clock inside the house that never misses a beat, that steady as ever ticks away at the same pace. You must demonstrate that the Lord of the Word has kept His word.
Stop complaining, whining, worrying. Pick up the Bible again; feed upon its strengthening message and solve those problems God’s way, to the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.
YOU CAN HELP ONE ANOTHER
Where do you turn for help? Well, where can you find it? Bill was in trouble. In spite of the fact that he was a Christian, in a time of need he had embezzled funds, and now as a result he was becoming so depressed over the guilt of this sin and the fear of discovery that his ability to function at work began to be seriously impaired. His wife began urging him to see a psychiatrist. In desperation, Bill went to his pastor. He complained of his despair and asked for help. Half wishing he could talk over the problem with the minister, but also half afraid of the possible consequences of confessing the truth, he hoped the pastor would somehow be able to extract the story from him. But to his deep disappointment, the pastor, who had been well-trained in the recognition of depressed persons, and just as thoroughly instructed that whenever he detected such depression, he should immediately defer and then refer, suggested that Bill seek “more professional help.” Bill ended up in a mental institution undergoing shock therapy, estranged from his family and suspected by his friends. While everyone played a sympathetic role during his infrequent visits home, he knew their real feelings. All this, and much more, because Bill had failed to confess his sins and make right his debts as God requires!
But that is not the only sad feature in this story. Bill failed, but so did his wife and his minister. Bill did not need shock therapy, or admission into a mental institution. Bill needed to pursue God’s path of forgiveness and restitution. But his family and church had not confronted him with the fact that his depression might possibly stem from sin. The possibility did not even occur to them. So thoroughly had both the minister and the family been indoctrinated in the current Freudian ethic that they never suspected the real cause of Bill’s depressions. Consequently, they failed to help him.
Every counselor who has worked in mental institutions has discovered – as I did several years ago – that these institutions are filled with people like Bill. These people (and a number of them are Christians) might be leading productive, fruitful Christian lives today if their fellow Christians had confronted them with the possibility of sin as the root of their difficulty. Not all peculiar behavior, of course, stems from specific acts of sin; there are people who have toxic problems, tumors on the brain, brain damage, etc., who because of physical damage or chemical malfunction perform badly. But by comparison, the number of those whose problems are organic in origin (as over against those who are simply not “making it” in life because they are not solving life’s problems biblically) is negligible. Great numbers of supposedly “mentally ill” persons are not ill at all. It is true that they may worry ulcers on their stomachs or become paralyzed through fear of discovery; but these illnesses are effects, or results, or consequences of their problem, not the causes of it. The real answer to their problem does not lie with psychiatrists or shock therapy; it may be found only in Jesus Christ.
But the Church of Jesus Christ has failed to recognize this fact, and has, indeed, cooperated in perpetrating the Freudian hoax which declared homosexuals and drunkards, adulterers and liars, cowards and slanderers, boasters and the covetous “not responsible” for their actions because they are “mentally ill.” Consequently, the church has virtually lost its image as the loving, forgiving, helping and healing society of people who gather together to “build up one another.” There is plenty of talk about the church as the institution in which you can find coldness, and slander and alienation; but what has happened to her, first century image?
What has happened to it? Why, it has gone; gone because her works of mutual love and care have also disappeared; gone with the coming of “competent professional help”; gone as the fearless use of loving discipline evaporated. Today, where can you find a church in which the members really “provoke one another to good works”? Where do you find those who are spiritually restoring a brother who is caught in a trespass? How often do Christians help to carry the weight of another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2)? How many Christians do you know who regard other Christians as more important than themselves and who look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4)? Where in the church do you see the confrontation of brethren who have offended one another taking place (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-20)? No wonder there is so much bitterness and slander and resentment when Christians fail to employ God’s means for reconciliation! What has happened? I’ll tell you what has happened: Because it was all too easy to follow the course of least resistance and minimal self-sacrifice, the Church of Jesus Christ fell easy prey to the propaganda. This Freudian propaganda claimed that people who are having difficulty in solving life’s problems are, as one hospital chaplain put it, “morally neutral” persons and therefore are not responsible. In short, they are sick and there is nothing we can do to help them; they need the expert. They need “professional help.” Ministers and other Christians alike have concluded that they are incompetent to counsel such people.
But are they? Has the Church lost her power for good? Is there no hope of regaining a fellowship of Christ’s flock where believers do assist one another in works that mutually edify (or build up)? Can each individual part of the body begin to function in such a way that the entire body will build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16)?
Of course this can happen; it can happen as soon as Christians begin to understand the third implication of 1 Corinthians 10:13, the verse we have been studying: “No trial has overtaken you but such as is common to men.” We have seen that this implies that we cannot shed our responsibilities by saying our problems are “unique.” God says they are common, i.e., shared by others. We noted also the hope that is inherent in this concept: if others have faced them successfully by following God’s directions and availing themselves of His resources, so can we. But now notice a further implication: if the problems men face are basically the same regardless of how the details may differ, then those Christians who have discovered how to solve their own problems according to the principles that God revealed in the Bible already know enough to help another Christian solve his problems. If you are growing by God’s grace, then to the extent to which you have grown in knowledge and life you can help another grow. You are already competent! In fact, you are likely to be more competent than many of the self-styled experts.
Psychiatrists, apart from dispensing tranquilizers (which any physician can do), rarely use their medical background. Instead they spend their time talking to their patients about values. They attempt to alter character and behavior. Do we want Freudian analysts [or any other unbiblical worldview/philosophy] telling our Christian brethren that their value systems are too stringent and, therefore, need watering down? Do we seriously believe that a man who is himself living apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ can lead members of the flock into more loving and faithful obedience to the Lord? Do we really think that the fruit of the Spirit will grow in an atmosphere in which the Spirit is ignored and the principles of His Word are challenged and undercut?
Jesus Christ came (Luke says) doing and teaching (Acts 1:1) – not only teaching, but also doing. He left a charge to His Church that the works which He did His followers also should do; and indeed, even more extensive works (John 14:12).
Where are the Church’s works today? Where is the power and authority of Christ? When we return to the mutual works of building up one another in our faith we shall know! Christian, in the Name of Jesus Christ your Lord, go help another today.
YOU CAN COUNT ON IT
“How do you know? How can you be sure? In the last three chapters you have been stressing the need for, the possibility of taking responsible biblical action-action that solves problems. You’ve been talking about hope. You’ve been saying that Christians can endure and solve problems and even ought to be able to help one another to do so. Are you offering too much? Can you really deliver? Is this hope you are offering simply another false hope that in the end will only bring greater despair and distress to those who depend upon it? Are you sure that you’re not engaged in an unscriptural oversell?”
Well, if you’ve been thinking this way, let me congratulate you. Often people too quickly “buy” supposed panaceas that produce temporary euphoria but eventually let them down flat. If you were to adopt the viewpoint that I have been presenting on any other basis than that you yourself have searched the Scriptures and have found it to be true, I should be deeply disappointed. Your real hope in trouble, your only certain hope in despair, is in God, the God who against all odds promised redemption for lost men – and delivered! All hope lies in Him, and that hope is realized only through His Son Jesus Christ. He delivered by fulfilling God’s promise of salvation in dying on the cross for the sins of those whom the Father had given Him that they might have forgiveness and life.
When you rest on the certainty that is in Jesus Christ, you are depending upon the dependable One who, in Scripture, speaks clearly; the One whose yes is yes and whose no is no. His words are not ambiguous and vague. He does not hedge or say yes and no at the same time. There is no existential tension inherent in His promises. When He promises, He does so plainly, and then follows through.
And that is precisely why – when I say that there is hope, that there are solutions, that mutual help is possible – I am not overselling. All this – and in the chapters to come (we shall see) even more – is true in the Christ who delivered not only on His promise to come and die, but even delivered on the promise to rise from the dead! Hope is certain because it is He who promises His own:
“There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to men, and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able to endure, but with the trial also will make a way of escape in order that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Don’t you see that the answer to all of your questions lies in those three solid words that are embedded in the heart of this gracious promise, these words, “God is faithful”? Those are words of certainty. And it is on this granite-like foundation that the hope of which I have been speaking rests. This is the promise of God; you can count on it.
Doubtless, the Apostle, who often anticipated objections and questions, suspected that some might think he too was overselling when he penned so sweeping a promise. So under the inspiration of God’s good Spirit, he nailed the promise tightly to the very faithfulness of God. That, of course, is the firmest foundation of all. If God’s faithfulness can fail, then so can this promise; if God’s faithfulness can fail, then you can doubt these words; if God’s faithfulness can fail, then you can find loopholes and voice valid objections. But if “God is faithful” – as you know that He is – then you have no choice but to believe and act upon this promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
In pastoral counseling we find that many people come for help with little hope. They have tried all they know to do, they have often sought advice elsewhere, but matters have continued to go from bad to worse. So, you can understand why they come with little hope. In fact, their attitude might be described as a hope-against-hope stance. Many, who for years have consulted psychiatrists and other counselors to no avail, come expecting nothing, and indeed often hold hope at arm’s length. So often have their previous expectations failed to materialize, and so often have their hopes been dashed to fragments, that they are wary of promises. For fear of being hurt again, they almost defy initial suggestions that there is hope. Such people need to hear Paul’s words: “God is faithful.” Past disillusionment came from setting one’s hope upon man and his promises. But when one’s hope is properly set on God, fixed upon His promises and founded upon His word, that hope does not fail.
Perhaps you are discouraged; perhaps you have given up all hope; perhaps you too are hesitant ever to hope again. If so, listen to God’s word to His own: “God is faithful.” There is hope! The problem you face – seemingly impregnable; seemingly insoluble; seemingly impossible – has a solution in Christ. The psychiatrist may say to his prospective client, “Now you know that analysis will probably take a long time and I can guarantee nothing.” But God does not speak that way! Indeed, He says in effect, “Based upon my own faithfulness, i.e., upon the integrity of my own Word and Person, I declare that there is no problem that My redeemed sons and daughters ever face that is either unique or beyond their ability to handle if they meet the problem in My way, using My resources.” God gives a guarantee. And there is no fine print to make it worthless!
You do not need to spend long torturous hours in psychoanalysis unearthing all the wrongs that others have perpetrated against you in order to fix the blame for your poor performance upon them. No, you can be different today. The beginning of a solution to your problem can take place right now as you acknowledge your own responsibility to face whatever God sends to you. Confess your sin of despair in the light of God’s gracious provisions for you as He has explained them in this promise. Not all of your problems will disappear immediately, but at least your attitude toward them can change radically today. You can look at them with hope. God does not permit you to lose hope if you are His child. The very concept of a child of the faithful God in utter despair is an anomaly’. God’s hope will not fail; it is hope that delivers! Throw aside then all self-pity, abandon every vestige of hesitation, strip yourself of excuses and rationalizations and cast yourself wholly upon this promise of God and the God of this promise. Then you will learn the joy of echoing those ringing words of faith and trust: “Great is Thy faithfulness.”
YOU CAN’T SAY CAN’T
“I can’t do it!” Those were the words of a Christian woman who had just learned Christ’s will from the Scriptures, which, she protested, it was impossible for her to obey. Her claim was that she simply did not have the courage and strength necessary. Was she right? Does God ever put Christians into a situation in which He demands behavior of them that He knows they cannot perform?
Bill was married to a woman who cared nothing about anyone but herself. She had sacrificed her marriage, her children, and her friends in order to satisfy her own selfish desires. The picture he painted was bleak; there was no ray of light. When he had finished recounting the last sad detail, Bill sat back in despair with a sigh and said, “So you see why it is that I can’t take it any longer.” Could he?
That’s the question, isn’t it: could he take it? Could that woman do Christ’s will? Can you assume that responsibility and accomplish that task about which you too have been saying, “I can’t”?
Most Christians who need counseling have one thing in common. Every observant pastoral counselor has noticed this all-but-universal characteristic: their conversation is studded with the word “can’t.” This common trait may be explained in various ways. Some might suppose that it is indicative of a basic weakness or inability that underlies their other problems. This explanation leads to the conclusion that these are people who constitutionally, or for some other reason, really can’t do what God requires. That is, of course, an explanation that accepts the counselee’s view that he is helpless. It also renders the counselor helpless, you will notice.
But there’s another explanation of this phenomenon: the biblical explanation is that men “cop out” on their responsibilities and fail to accomplish their tasks because of sin.
Paul allows no Christian to escape by the use of the word “can’t.” He writes:
“There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to men, and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able to endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
If indeed God never sends trials heavier than a Christian can bear, the Christian has no right to protest, “I can’t.” If God has sent it, he can take it! If God has required it, he can do it! Even though the trials we face are not unique in their basic designs, the detailed form they take, the intensity with which they come, and the point in life at which we must face them, are all tailor-made to each individual child of God, and, don’t forget, God is the tailor! No trials or temptations hang too long on us. They fit us precisely. God never allows the Devil to tempt a Christian beyond his ability to withstand, provided that he does so in God’s way, by means of God’s resources and not his own. The book of Job stands as a sturdy witness to this promise.
But you protest – “I don’t think I could stand firm for my faith before a firing squad as other Christians have.” You may be correct. But you do not now have to face a firing squad. The promise is not that you will have strength to meet tomorrow’s problem today, but only that, when it comes, God will provide the needed wisdom and courage to do so. Often the strength comes in the doing.
Perhaps that problem which yesterday seemed utterly unbearable can now be endured because you have read this message today. The promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 itself may provide the courage and direction that God’s Spirit knows you need to make that pressing decision you once thought you never could make.
Given the grace of God, given your knowledge of God’s Word, given your present state of sanctification, given the resources of the Holy Spirit within, there is no trial into which God cans you that is beyond your ability to withstand. Instead of saying “can’t,” you should say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This is an important principle to grasp. Perhaps a bit of background into the problem will help. Sin brought about a reversal of man’s rule over the earth, so that it became possible for the earth to gain dominion over man. It fought back, bringing forth thorns. Man’s task no longer was to trim and dress the garden, but now, in the sweat of his face, he found it necessary to toil against the earth in order to eke out an existence. Whenever he gives up on this task, the impact of the reversal becomes evident. Contrary to God’s mandate to subdue the earth, sinners give up and allow the environment to control them. The Christian who whines “I can’t; I’m helpless” is submitting to the rule of sin in a world set against him. A Christian must not act that way. To reflect the image of God, he must subdue and rule the world. The picture of a man crippled by and subjected to his environment is a pitiful distortion of God’s image. The Bible is able to equip every Christian fully for every emergency in life. To fail to use God’s gracious provision of the Scriptures in which lie the principles needed for a life of godliness is to misrepresent God to unbelievers. It is no less than a slander against the One who died for our sins on the cross and who, if He did that for us, will also freely give us all things necessary for life and godliness. Indeed, those who do not know Christ are repelled daily by Christians who live and act in the spirit of the word “can’t.”
Paul neither ignores the severity of your problem nor minimizes it when he says you can endure it; he simply tells the truth about God and about you. And if you doubt him, then remember that he was careful to preface this promise with the assurance that God’s Word is as certain as His own faithfulness: “God is faithful who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able to endure.”
Christian wife, your home can be different. Young man, you can help your behavior when you are out alone with girls. Businessman, you can meet that irate customer tomorrow. Shut-in, you can overcome the feeling of loneliness and uselessness that seems to be driving you to despair. Whatever the problem, through Jesus Christ, you can. So, go ahead and prove to yourself and those all around you that God’s promise is true.
I’M IN A BOX
Jean, a Christian woman, sat across the desk. Her worn face and swollen red eyes underscored the sorry story she told. Her marriage had gone sour. Her husband had seriously neglected her and mistreated his children. He had done just about everything short of adultery to make her life miserable, and even seemed to enjoy it. It became clear, however, that what disturbed her most was not this or that particular abuse or insult, or even the accumulation of all of these, but rather the fact that she could see no way out of the situation. She could see no ray of hope for the future. As she, herself, put it, “I’m in a box!”
Perhaps that’s the way you feel too; as you read Jean’s words you may even have said to yourself, “You’re not the only one!” Your children are grown, the last one is about to be married and leave home, and all that you and your husband have left is one another. The rest of your life is going to be spent with him (or her). Life was tolerable when there were still children at home who could bring some meaning, some cheerfulness, some laughter into it. But now, now your home suddenly has become a hermetically-sealed box; a prison cell; solitary confinement! Locked up for life with a husband – or wife – who does not understand you and whom you do not understand, either. You say, “I’m in a box!”
Or perhaps that wonderful home you once had exists only in your fond memories. Your loving husband is now gone. You come home every evening to an otherwise empty cold apartment where you stare at the four walls until it’s time to go to bed. You have often thought: “those four walls are no better than the walls of a pine box.” You’re in a box all right; you’re in a box in which you have been buried alive!
Or, as a businessman, you know you are caught in the swirl of ever-increasing demands upon your time. Your four-walled trap consists of escalating responsibilities and pressures. Pressures – pressures to produce, pressures to earn, pressures to be a better husband, pressures to spend more time with the family. To do the one is to neglect the other. … Pressures, pressures, pressures – all of which seem to push you in opposite directions. The walls of the whole unwieldy structure threaten to cave in on you. “I could spend more time with the family,” you say, “if… “; “but with the rising cost of living … where can I break out?
I’m in a box – tightly nailed shut – with no way out!” Are you? Christian, listen to God:
“There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to men, and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able to endure, but with the trial also will make a way of escape in order that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Did you get it? God says He never puts us into a box to leave us there for good. Jean needed to understand this. She needed to know that God provides a way of escape from every trial. Christians are never in a box from which they cannot escape. God can make the walls of the box fall as flat as the walls of Jericho; He can open up the lid, reach down and lift you out. Or, He can make the bottom fall out. Because Jean thought she was in a box, Jean had taken the only way she knew to get out of the box – she had tried to “cop out” by giving up, quitting. But letting down on her responsibilities as a mother and wife had only complicated the problem – and had simply proved to be a blind alley rather than a way of escape. It was no solution; her guilt had led to depression and her depression had led to further irresponsibility which, in a downward spiraling fashion, had led in turn to further guilt, and so on … and on.
God promises that with the trial He will also “make a way of escape in order that you may be able to endure it.” Every box has its way out; every problem has a solution; every trial will come to an end for God’s children. This is not true, of course, for others. One of the most fearful facts about the eternal punishment of hell is the great eternal gulf that separates it from Jesus Christ, forever. There is no exit from hell, no way of escape, no end of suffering and trial. That is why men without Christ fear death; somehow they realize that death is a box without an exit. And the fear of death (with its consequences) makes life itself a box.
But the Christian, who knows that Jesus Christ entered the box for him and broke through the walls of death that the fear of its eternal engulfing power might be removed, no longer need fear death, nor life.
Whatever way of escape God may provide, even if it is the very best of all (i.e., to take you to be with Himself), if you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, you may be certain that the way out will come just as surely as the problem itself. God says that together with the trial there will also be “a way of escape.”
Knowing this, simply knowing that there will be an end to the trial, is itself most reassuring. The knowledge enables you to go on. It spurs you on and helps you to continue to assume your responsibilities before God. It gives hope. You can endure anything when you know that it has an end.
Depressed, discouraged Christian, let me urge you to take God at His word. No matter how dark the night may seem – the morning will come. With the darkness there is also light. There is Christ; and in Him is light, light that will enable you to endure it. The box may seem impregnable, but it isn’t – not to God.
You’re in a box? Then sing – sing as bleeding Paul and Silas sang at midnight in their cell at Philippi, and soon (i.e., in God’s time) you too will hear the rumble of the earth and feel the shaking of the foundations of your prison, and the doors – the doors of your box – will fly open according to the promise and power of God.
Dr. Jay E. Adams, 1971
Edited by Campus Christians