How the heck did this little ditty come to be as familiar as the Apostles Creed in popular American Christian belief?! I'm not even sure it's something that Ben Franklin would say, even though most people think the happy Deist's "God helps those who help themselves" is somewhere in the Bible, maybe Proverbs 3 or 4.
No, the unfortunate phrase is a very loose paraphrase of I Corinthians 10:13 which states that when we are tempted, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure, but with the temptation will provide a way out (exodus). These words follow Paul's illustration of the Israelites' idolatry in the wilderness as an example not to follow.
Some conclude, as the saying suggests, that God therefore gives us trials and temptations and that these cover anything and everything- events like hurricanes and earthquakes. To me it's clear that it's in the temptation that God provides a way out. Temptation is not from God- it's humanity's problem. "God tempts no one," James wrote. So I have a basic disagreement that God supposedly "gives us" really bad stuff-- just enough so that we bend but don't break!
Besides theological concerns, I also have practical, pastoral concerns with this line of belief. What about the stuff God "gives us" that we cannot handle? We- all of us- are so easily broken and overwhelmed. "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is a lie. Instead, as traumas are experienced throughout life, we may well become more, not less, fragile. With PTSD and other anxiety disorders, there is and can be recovery and healing- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
But please don't discount or deny the real human-God work required in that recovery by using this line on others. If it works for you, well then, it's for you. And neither Ben Franklin nor St. Paul said it.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Oldies but Goodies
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