You hear them all the time – pithy sayings and quotes attributed to God that really shouldn’t be. Some people believe they’re Scriptural…but they’re not. Sometimes people speak out of a genuine, well-intentioned heart, in an attempt to soothe a loved one experiencing a difficult time. I think most people say them because they have no idea of what to say in certain circumstances – they just seem natural to say. And I think some people are mistakenly attributing to God an attitude or outlook any reasonable person would have – in other words, they’re hoping or expecting that God would act in the same way they do. Which, of course, is wrong. Namely because “God’s ways are not our ways”.
I’d like these insipid things eliminated, but that’s just me.
So what are 5 things God doesn’t say or do?
1) “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
Everybody who’s ever wanted to smack the person who says this in the face with a chair, say “Aye!”
This is so untrue. If you doubt me, read the book of Job. The reality is, God gives us more than we can handle all the time – what He desires is that in our weakness, we rely on His strength, thus revealing His glory. More accurately, I think, is to say “God allows crap to happen.”
But I get why people say this. No one wants to give someone they love “more than they can handle”. But that’s not how life works.Otherwise there’d be no tragedy, or illnesses, or difficult pregnancies, or tsunamis. Ask a new widow or widower if they feel they could handle just a little bit more.
Perhaps a better way to say it would be “God never gives you more than you can handle ON YOUR OWN.”
2) “Whenever God closes a door, He opens a window.”
Circumstances seem to work out this way. A person gets fired or laid off, and several weeks later, gets an even better job. We’ve all seen examples of ‘Godincidences”. And I’m not discounting them. I’ve had many in my life. But who’s to say it’s God shutting the door in the first place? Our sins put us in many a locked room. Other people exercising their free will closes many a window, too.
The window we want is rarely the window God has in mind. The ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in, and we want any escape, as soon as possible (this is when someone might pipe in with “but God never gives you more than you can handle”). God’s plan, though, might involve shuttering all the windows and locking all the doors for a time. One example is the martyrdom of the French priests during the Enlightenment, locked aboard prison ships. The window God opened for them was Heaven’s Gate. I bet, though, that most people who say #2 don’t have that particular exit in mind.
We only need to look at Christ’s agony in Gethsemane. He, in his human nature, sought a different exit than the one God had prepared for Him. He didn’t want to go through it, yet did so out of obedience to God’s will, and because of His passionate love for us. So when God provides us an open window, we need to climb through with trust and faith, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at the time.
I find that when people say this, they believe that the window God opens will lead to peace and joy and happiness. Automatically. That isn’t the case (see Christ’s passion on the cross). Ultimately, yes, because God’s plans for me and you are “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). It might take a series of windows, doors, and the odd hole through the wall in order to get there.
3) “God helps those who help themselves.”
Uhhh, no. I think this is a watered down version of “Pray as if everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you.” And then the first part got chopped off.
Can anyone show me where God helped someone who helped himself? Some people even believe this to be in the Bible. The reality is, people who help themselves – which I interpret to be people who are proud, haughty, full of themselves, etc – tend to get knocked down a peg or two by God. I suppose that’s being helped by God. But that’s not what’s meant when people say it.
Perhaps a better way to say it would be “God helps those who seek to do His will.”
4) “God doesn’t want me/you to be unhappy.”
This is typically said when a person’s engaged in sinful behavior, or confirming someone else in their sin. For example, so-called gay marriage. One argument is, it will make the couple happy to be “married”. God really doesn’t want them to be unhappy, does He?
God prefers they be holy, because happiness doesn’t lead to heaven.
What they’re actually saying is “I don’t want to be unhappy”, while throwing God under the bus. What they’re saying is “If I tell someone they’re sinning, they won’t like me and that will make me unhappy.”
And I get it. It’s human nature. We all want to be liked. But wanting to be liked at the expense of the Truth won’t make us happy, in the long run. And throwing God under the bus makes Him unhappy.
God wants us to be full of joy. He wants us to be holy. Mere happiness is a pale, fleeting substitute.
Perhaps a good response to this would be “No, God doesn’t want you to end up in Hell.”
5) “God understands.”
This is similar to #4. I’ve heard people say “It’s okay if I miss Mass on Sundays – I draw closer to God in nature than in a church. God understands.” Mm-hmm. He understands, alright. That you are wrong. God understands all too well our sinful nature and concupiscence. So well, in fact, that He sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins. So that we might be saved.
If someone were to say “I wanted to go to Mass Sunday, but was too sick to make it”, then it would be appropriate to say “God understands.” He doesn’t ask us to do the impossible, and He certainly doesn’t hold us accountable for what we don’t know. But to imply God winks at sin? No. Uh-uh. To imply that God will just forgive us because He’s nice and good and wants us to be happy? Sorry. He will forgive us, as soon as we ask for it.
Perhaps a good response would be to ask “What does God understand, exactly?”
What other quotes about God have you heard that bear mentioning?