With the rise of social media, the spread of biblical sounding phrases has—well—gone viral. Beautiful images filled with inspirational phrases slowly take on the status of being “somewhere in the Bible.” But when you take a closer look, you’ll have a great deal of trouble finding them. That’s because they aren’t really there—and sometimes they’re even contrary to what God actually says.
1. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” 1 Memes 7:77
When some difficulty arises in the life a believer (or anyone else), this supposed verse gets tossed out there like a Scripture bomb. Sure, it sounds compelling, and it does remind us of God’s care and concern for each of us. After all, He knows exactly the number of follicles growing out of your cranium:
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)
But it’s because God loves us and knows us that He must give us more than we can handle. After all, we humans have a tendency to think that we can do everything on our own. Our pride has a way of dragging us down:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
To keep us grounded in the reality of our need for a Savior, God graciously allows us to see just how much we can’t handle. He put the prophet Elijah’s back against the wall and made him depend upon birds, He gave Moses 600,000 impossible-to-please travelers, He tasked the 11 apostles with spreading the gospel all over the world, and He’ll give you way more than you can handle, too.
Now, the Bible does say that God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your limits:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
And that is certainly great news. We all need the assurance. But temptation is not usually what people mean when they say this supposed verse.
2. “If God brings you to it, He will lead you through it.” Suburbians 3:9
This so-called verse does conjure up images of the Israelites passing through the Red Sea or Joshua leading God’s people through the Jordan River. We can see David’s Shepherd guiding us through that Valley of the Shadow of Death. Plus, it rhymes.
However, this isn’t necessarily what the Bible teaches.
It is true that God is with us always, no matter what we face, just as Jesus said:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
But oftentimes we use this supposed verse to mean that God will always remove us from a bad situation. Tough job? God will get you out the door. Struggling marriage? God will fix it before you know it. Made a dumb decision? God will take care of it.
Could He get you out of that tough spot? Sure. Will He? That’s up to Him and His perfect will.
With the prophet Daniel, for example, God led the boy off into captivity. But He never brought him “through” Babylon and back to Israel. Instead, He kept him there through king after king, battle after battle, danger after danger. Daniel grew old and died far from home—never seeing the land he longed for. But God used that time for some amazing displays of His power.
So, you may never get “through” your struggle. God may lead you to stay right where you are so that you can have an impact there—and He can get the glory.
3. “If God closes one door, He’ll open another (or a giant window).” Ingressions 2b
You could say this folksy verse is closely associated with number 2 above. It has the same potential for stock image inspiration in your social media feed, and it does have some truth to it. The Bible does promise that God will keep us headed in the right direction:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8)
But the “way you should go” doesn’t necessarily mean God will make an escape hatch for us when times get tough or when we don’t seem to be making progress. In fact, God often does some of His best work in our waiting, and He teaches us to trust Him more:
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)
If God closes a door, we need to stop and consider what’s going on in our life. Perhaps we’re trying to force our way into something that He wants to protect us from. Looking for another door or window may make us miss the lesson because we’re sure we should be doing something—anything. We keep trying to go where God wants to protect us from.
If God stops you, don’t immediately look for another way through. First, stop and ask Him if that’s truly what He wants you to do. Otherwise, you could be like Peter who tried to keep Jesus from being arrested when arrest was exactly what God had planned (John 18:10).
4. “ ‘Your wish is my command,’ says the Lord.” Genie-says 1:1
Okay, so you may never have heard this supposed verse put so bluntly before. But the sentiment has certainly been shared all over the Internet. If you keep asking, if you believe enough, if you have faith enough, then God will give you whatever you want.
We have to be careful here, of course, because God does promise many times to hear the prayers of those who call on Him (2 Chronicles 7:14; Micah 7:7; 1 John 5:14). We also know that God answers those prayers (Psalm 120:1; Matthew 7:7; etc.). We’re even told this:
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
But there’s much more here than God being some sort of genie in the sky. Whenever God promises to hear our cries or to answer our prayers, there’s always an important stipulation—whether explicit or not. Take Psalm 37:4 as an example. God will give us the desires of our heart… when we delight in Him. And that’s the point: He is what we truly need—not fame, fortune, or anything else this world can offer. When we seek Him first and His righteousness, we have exactly what we truly need.
So, does God answer our prayers? Absolutely. Should we bring our needs to Him? Every single one. Should we expect Him to answer our prayers exactly as we want? No—not unless we’re mainly praying and desiring for His will to be done. He knows way better what we need than we do.
5. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Limnentations 3:16
Years ago, this phrase became a staple of evangelism, and since then, it’s taken on an aura of something biblical. The problem, though, is that it suggests an idea that’s not biblical at all. How? Let’s break it down.
We can be sure that God loves us, the first part of this phrase. After all, the most famous verse in the Bible assures us of God’s love (John 3:16), and He sent His Son to prove that love (Romans 5:8). So, there’s nothing amiss there. God sent Jesus to save us, and that’s solid ground for evangelism.
But the trouble starts when we add to that the idea that once we’re saved, everything will suddenly be awesome. Despite what it may have meant at one time, that “wonderful plan for your life” part sounds an awful lot like “He’ll fix all your problems.” The truth is that following Jesus may actually cause problems for the believer.
Jeremiah obeyed God’s call, and he ended up at the bottom of a cistern. David trusted God, and he spent years running for his life and dodging spears. Paul surrendered to Christ, and he forfeited prestige for prison. And this apostle wasn’t one to hide what following Christ means:
“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8)
God loves us and has a wonderful future in store for those who love Him:
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)
But in the present age? Not necessarily. The road will likely be very hard.
This article first appeared on BibleStudyTools.com.