Are you comfortable? Got something to drink or nibble on (you might need it)? I'll give you a minute.
...(humming Jeopardy theme song)...
Ok...let's get on with the post...
I have my hands full (most of us do). At times I seriously doubt whether I can bear much more emotional weight on my shoulders. There always seems to be one more hurdle (quickly followed by another) or one more emotional upheaval (we've had three deaths in my immediate family this year). It is exhausting. It can be depressing. It usually just downright sucks!
But you know what sucks more...hearing, "God will never give you more than you can handle." It nearly drives me over the edge of sanity once spoken. I have to fight back my snarky retort aimed at the person who honestly believes they are offering some form of comfort (its NOT a comfort...please STOP saying it!). The theme of this phrase has even found its way into the song He Said by Group 1 Crew (I can kind of let this one slide though). This misnomer is not founded in any book in the Bible, but it is derived from a misinterpretation of an actual verse, 1 Corinthians 10:13. How in the world did 1 Corinthians 10:13 become the foundation for this offering of encouragement?!?
Let's look at the verse (New King James Version):
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."(emphasis added)This is the verse that has been used to support the misnomer of God not giving us more than we can handle. I believe there are two key words to this verse...temptation and escape.
- Temptation is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
- The act of tempting or the state of being tempted especially to evil
- Something tempting; a cause or occasion of enticement
I believe people are confusing temptation with burden...they are not the same thing. The burdens and struggles I am carrying don't have anything to do with temptation (unless I'm tempted to run away from my daughter...uh...no). I am not being tempted to evil by hearing devastating test results, researching new therapies, burying a family member, or seeing Rae fall further behind developmentally (unless you count being tempted to break a few dishes in my back yard purely out of frustration to be evil). I am not dealing with temptation. I am dealing with very overwhelming emotional/spiritual battles with myself, with my faith, with my friends/family, with our doctors, labs or insurance company, and with my daughter (she is a stubborn little stinker at times).
Let's review the second word...
- Escape is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
- To get away
- To avoid threatening evil
- To get free of
- To get or stay out of the way of
So, why does this cliche bother me so deeply? Because I believe it is derived from a biblical verse that has been taken out of context and does not in any way offer real comfort. I also believe that if we never had to endure anything we could not handle then we would never need to turn to God in time of need, sorrow, struggle, or weakness. If I could "handle" any situation then I can rely solely on myself. I don't believe that is what God intended.
Paul, the same man who wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13, later wrote in 2 Corinthians 1: 8-10,
"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us," (emphasis added)
Paul was at a low point in his life. He felt burdened beyond his own, earthly, ability to handle and felt his earthly life may soon be over. He recognized that there are times when the burden is more than we can handle on our own and we should trust that God will deliver us. Paul was given more than he could handle! That is a huge contrast from the verse being offered as encouragement that God will "never" give us more than we can handle. If Paul was given a burden he could not bear on his own, then why would we not be given a burden we too could not bear without God's help?
Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries, writes:
"Let me tell you something that may come as a surprise. God does give us more than we can handle. Every day He may place us in the position where the pain is too much to bear. Why? Because we were never meant to do this life without Him! He gives you more than you can handle–but not how much you and He–together–can handle."
So, why do we continue to say this to people?
When someone is in the middle of dealing with illness, death, or just about any situation that causes doubt, pain, or depression...a common feeling is that the situation is too much for them to handle. It's swallowing them whole. It creates overwhelming doubt about their ability to overcome this life altering circumstance. Hearing, "God will never give them more than they can handle," may generate more doubt (or anger) or cause a serious fracture in their faith. They are already fighting a mental battle as Lisa shares,
"Over and over I have heard the saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” But what about the pain. . . the grief. . . the depression. . . the darkness? It is more than we can handle. Much more. There are days that we wonder is life worth living if we have to get up every day and fight to be strong?"Why are we adding more fuel to the fire? During the course of your life, you WILL have more than you feel you can handle. You are not designed to deal with everything on your own (even if you cling to family or friends and not faith). Here's my solution to those that wish to encourage and support those in pain... Stop saying, "God will never give you more than you can handle." It's not true. Instead, look for meaningful, scripturally based (if that's your thing) words of encouragement. Here are a few verses I have found comfort in:
"Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be moved."
(God wants to help you carry your burden, but you must give it to Him.)
"You hear O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry"
(He sees and hears you. Your pain, your fear, your sorrow. He sees and hears it all.)
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
(When you feel your anxiety rising...stop, take a moment to collect yourself, and give that anxiety over to God. He will protect you. Accept the peace of mind He offers you.
I need to remember this one more often.)
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
(You are NEVER alone! He is ALWAYS with you!)
*I didn't come across these verses on my own. I had some help from a friend that invited me to join her in a Bible study called Brave Honest Questions Women Ask by Angela Thomas. I highly recommend this study for those struggling with a burden(s) or thorn(s). It's great with a group, but if you don't have a group please try it on your own.