Monday, June 3, 2013

"God Never Gives You More Than You Can Handle"

There is something I've been thinking about for a long time. It's been rolling around in my brain, sort of marinating as I try to sort it out. It's this statement, "God never gives you more than you can handle."

I would be surprised if there was a single one of us who has not heard it said. People say it when it a family member dies, a car breaks down, there's a miscarriage or infertility, our kids are being troublesome, a spouse is being a pain in the butt, etc. To me, it's always come across as either rude, like "well, God wouldn't have let your dad die if you couldn't handle it!" Or prideful, like "well you're so awesome and tough that of course God will let you go through all this- you can totally handle it!"

 I've also heard people say it about themselves after they rack up debt and 'have' to file bankruptcy or they have an affair and are facing a very hurt and angry spouse or they made some other bad choice that is negatively impacting their life. As though their bad choices were nothing but a lesson God gave takes the responsibility and weight of consequences off of them. Like, "see, God wouldn't have let it happen if I couldn't handle it!"

The statement is quoted as though it's a Bible verse. Here's the deal, it's not. The Bible does not say, "God never gives you more than you can handle." Especially not in the above context. It seems perhaps the phrase started after a game of telephone of this verse, "No temptation 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, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13 NASB).

I like this explanation from, "The promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is not about God not giving us more than we can handle it is about God not allowing temptation to overwhelm us without Him providing a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall into sin (like Israel did).

I think this is very critical to understand because many people may feel that when life gives them more than they can (honestly) handle they may conclude that God has let them down. They may even repeat this phrase “God won’t give you (or me) any more than you (I) can handle.” But I do not believe that God has promised this. I think that this is one of those phrases much like “God helps them who help themselves” that people repeat so often that they assume it is in the Bible but it actually is not!"

For me, I'm bothered by the phrase because I believe us living a life with more than we can handle is sort of the whole point. Life is not easy and sometimes it's just down right hard. Sometimes it's hard because of reasons out of our control (hello, motherhood!), sometimes it's hard because we made a poor choice at some point and are paying the consequences, even years later. The difficulty of life points to our great need for someone bigger, stronger, more capable than we are. Our challenges put us in a position to cry out for help and allow God to reveal himself and His glory. We can let our life point to Him. I don't think the point is that others can say, "wow, you're so've been through so much and YOU are amazing." Yeah, a kudos is nice because it's validation, but I can honestly say I've never made it through anything without God being right there with me. Craig's accident, infertility, financial troubles, taking on a stepson full time, raising my toddlers, losing 3 family members in a year, and the ups and downs of marriage. It can become a wedge in our trust of the Father when we really buy into this idea that He won't give us more than we can though he's purposely dumping crap on our lives and making things hard simply because "we can handle it." Like it's a game to Him to see how much weight we can carry before we break. I just simply won't buy into that. 

That's not the loving and just Savior that scripture speaks of. That's not the gentle and healing Savior that I know. There are natural consequences to our choices and our lifestyles. That is part of life. It might feel like punishment, but I really think punishment and consequences are not the same thing. I might put my girls in timeout for mistreating each other and that's punishment. But when they burn their hand grabbing at the hot stove- I would NEVER purposely make that happen. That's a natural consequence to them ignoring my warning of HOT! 
 Sometimes poo hits the fan and we can't see or find a reason. It does not mean God is playing Russian Roulette with us and seeing which time the gun will actually go off. 

I do think that He hopes and desires that in every circumstance, we'll praise Him. That in every challenge and hurt, we'll seek Him....hide in Him. Is that easy? No, not always. But I think it gets easier as our relationship deepens and sadly, as we face more hardship. 

The last few years have really sucked. It's been SO much hardship and death and it's been anything but easy. Somewhere in that mess I reached a point where I realized it wasn't helpful to blame or question God at all. I need Him just to get through the day. It's more than OK, and heck yeah He can handle our questions and anger, but I don't have the energy to yell at and question Him and also lean into Him. Most days I only have enough energy for one position and a nonstop torrent of hardship does serve to exhaust us to the point that we pick our stance. It might vary a bit from day to day, but we realize we aren't going to make it to bedtime without Him. Our marriage won't see another anniversary without Him. Our children won't have pleasant memories or a future to build on without Him. Our bills won't get paid without Him. For me, that realization has also served to allow me to see the victories...the times He's stepped in and done miracles. It is very hard to think that after a lifetime of not really knowing her, my husband's mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Immediately she had a tracheotomy and was confined to a hospital bed until she died. BUT, she was able to write journals and dozens of letters and share her heart. She accepted Jesus and she came to understand her value and importance. I learned more about her in that 7 months than I'd been able to know in the 7 years prior. That was so God! Cancer was a natural consequence of decades of smoking and drinking. He didn't have to allow such emotional and spiritual healing to take place- but He did. That is a gracious and loving God. Not a God laughing from his throne touting, "well, you can handle it!" No, of course we can't handle it! Cancer is a beast....a horrible and terrifying beast. We absolutely can't handle it. We need God. I need God.

I hope that whatever you're facing, you can feel loved and cared for throughout it. That you'll allow your Savior to be your ally and support. He is powerful and loving and gracious. He is Truth and Justice and Mercy. Even in the natural consequences to our lives and our sin, He is still love. His love is not dependent on us deserving it! You don't have to buck up and try to handle it. Whether it's surviving the day with little kids or dealing with and grieving the loss of someone, you don't have to try and handle it. Allow your Savior to love save you. Life gets simpler when we realize we can't handle it.

~ Diana

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts! Reminds me of this article I read and shared a few months back.