We had an incident this week that involved an attempt to throw a five-pound hand weight up to the top bunk bed. I now have one very remorseful son with bad aim and another extremely forgiving son with a broken foot. To be completely honest, I am actually surprised that we’ve made it this long before having a broken bone. Having three boys means injuries are par for the course.
This hasn’t helped my stress level at all though. Between caring for my injured child and carrying him everywhere, trying to teach my remorseful son about grace, and keeping tabs on the two-year old aka “Trouble” I’m feeling stretched thin. On top of that, Monday I found out it looks like our foster daughter is going to need another surgery. I need coffee.
It is times like these that well-meaning people often pull out the “God never gives you more than you can handle!” phrase. Apparently, they believe that I can really handle more than I feel capable of.
As well-intentioned as this is, this concept isn’t in scripture. Anywhere.
Regularly we see cases where people have more than they can handle. It is a result of the world’s fallen nature and things are just out of control. But, we want them to be controllable so we have attached ourselves to this “Bible verse” which really isn’t a verse.
We’ve actually taken a verse with a very different meaning and completely distorted it to give us some justification for trying to stay in our comfort zones, to put conditions on what God is allowed to burden us with, and to limit our own liability essentially.
“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.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
This passage is where we get this idea God won’t give us more than we can handle… except it is about temptation and not life’s trouble. God won’t allow us to be tempted in ways we aren’t able to overcome and He’ll always give us an escape. The author of Corinthians, Paul, writes that we will be able to endure it, but says nothing about it being easy.
It’s not wrong for us to want things to be easier. I honestly wish my son wasn’t hurt. I wish my other one wasn’t wracked with guilt. I wish I could bubble wrap my two-year old. I wish I could fix my foster daughter’s situation. But, I won’t ever wish away what God is doing in each of their lives and my life.
We could each give into temptation at this point. I could become a control freak instead of giving it to God. Most of the temptations we face aren’t about do it or don’t do it situations; they are about our hearts and attitudes. Are we running to God instead of blaming Him for our circumstances?
Following God can be painful. It’s not always safe: most of the disciples followed Christ to their deaths. But, Jesus is worth dying for even if it is just dying to ourselves and living for Him.
When we buy in to the whole “He won’t give you more than you can handle” myth, we are saying there is a point that we can’t go any farther; our strength will give out at that point and we are done.
When we place limits on what we are willing to go through, we limiting how far we are willing to go with God. It might be true that we can’t handle more, but God can. We are supposed to do this with His strength, not ours.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
Paul wrote this while imprisoned for his faith and yet, he states that he is content. God is enough.
When we try to limit our liability in following God, we limit what He is able to do with us. We limit what He is able to teach us.
Being comfortable is over-rated; nothing truly amazing comes out of being comfortable. What matters most in trial is how we run to God, not how much we think we can handle. It is a temptation to run from pain when we shouldn’t. We don’t get to limit God’s plan. Besides, being in the center of God’s will is where we get the best stories… five-pound weights and all.