Rising Waters That Bring Life - Not Death
One verse that most people that have been in the church for any length of time, recognize is 1 Corinthians 10:13. Yes, we know it well. “God isn’t going to give me anything I can’t handle” is a well-known paraphrase. Well, the actual verse says this, to be exact, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This verse is loaded.
What is temptation? We often think of that still small voice to “just lie” or “one look won’t hurt”. But temptations can come in many forms and the source can be our fleshly desires. Matthew 26:41 reminds us that we need to, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” If we are not walking in the Spirit, we will give in to the desires of the flesh. Satan is also a key contributor to feeding us these temptations. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Satan is a real player in this game.
In the pilgrim’s walk, we endure many trials that seem to be “more than we can handle”. We often go to 1 Corinthians 10:13 and ask God why he is allowing something that is literally drowning us. We feel we can’t go on and even want to die. This verse uses the word, “overtaken”. This word denotes something coming unexpectedly or suddenly. Like a flood.
Think about raging waters in a flood. Like a tsunami or a hurricane that sits over one area for a long time. Houston experienced this when Hurricane Harvey hit. Fast, rising waters overtook homes, businesses, roads, churches, and people lost their lives. Japan was overtaken by a catastrophic tsunami in 2011. This came in like a raging, furious monster, and multiple cities were instantly destroyed. Lives were lost and it was devastating. Crops were lost. Landforms were changed.
We know that floods are incredibly dangerous. But here’s an amazing fact. As a flood’s waters recede, all the earth, plants, soil, and crops that it has covered have fertilized the soil and earth right where that destruction has taken place. So often after the present population regains its footing again they attempt to plant new crops, and they use the most fertile places. Where the flood occurred. Beauty and nourishment come from hard times.
And isn’t this so much like the “floods” that occur in our lives?
The God Who is Faithful
This God we serve is sovereign and we can have confidence that all He brings into our lives is for our best. He also is keenly aware of our abilities. The temptation, though brought about by sin and Satan, is still under His control. He is trustworthy so we don’t need to doubt what He is doing. 1 Corinthians 1:9 reminds us “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our Lord drew us to Himself to be His children, so we can trust He is going to finish the work. Sometimes that includes really hard things. Things that seem dangerous and life-taking. But because He is faithful and He cannot lie, we can trust His powerful hand.
Beyond My Ability?
So often, as we face these temptations or trials, we really do question if He knows how much we can handle. The key to understanding this apart from our feelings is to liken this phrase to “more than my resources”. God has given us emotional, mental, physical, and (most importantly) spiritual resources. Many times our feelings dictate what we think we can handle. Let’s take a step back and examine all those things we have at our disposal to help us: God’s Word, our community of believers, the Holy Spirit, our mind to remember, Biblical counselors, and His faithfulness in the past. Deuteronomy 7:9 reminds us, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
The Escape Exit
In times of trial and temptation, most of us want nothing more than to be taken out of it and find a way of escape. We want the anxiety to leave. We want the pressure to be relieved. We don’t want these sinful desires anymore. We want the “flood waters” to go away. Better yet, we pray, “God, please don’t allow the flood. I don’t have the energy nor stamina to keep climbing to higher places.” At other times, we feel the waters going over our heads and we are sure that we are drowning.
But, then we find nuggets of truth like Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” And Jeremiah 17:7-8, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And we cling to them like a life preserver. Because God asks us to endure it. He has promised to not leave us but to remain with us so that we CAN endure it. The key is: we CANNOT do what He has asked with our resources because we don’t have any within ourselves. It is looking to the author and finisher of our faith. We don’t finish it. HE DOES!
So now, the flood waters have receded. We begin to see the wonderful and hard things the Lord has created in our lives through these times. The ground is dry enough to walk on and now what do we see, but a little green sprout pushing through the ground once laden with millions of gallons of destructive water. What a beautiful picture of what God does in our lives when we acknowledge what the Psalmist did in Psalm 121.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
 ESV Bible, Crossway, 2008