It is perhaps one of the most misquoted and misunderstood Scriptures.
“God will never give you more than you can handle!”
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It sounds really great! And it certainly can bring encouragement in the difficult times.
“God knows that I can handle this, so I am going to make it through!”
There’s nothing overly wrong with the encouragement in itself.
It just isn’t found in Scripture.
It comes primarily from a misunderstanding of 1st Corinthians 10.13:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.” (1Cor 10.13)
The context is specifically about sin, not the hardships of life. There are temptations all around us, and we as Christ-followers are prone to the same temptations as anyone else.
When it comes to temptation to sin, in that particular case, He will not let us be tempted to sin beyond what we can handle; there is always a way out, that we might escape sin.
The passage is not about trials, struggles, persecutions, and hardships.
It isn’t saying that in the general pains of life, He won’t give us more than we can handle.
It’s saying that in the area of temptation and sin, He will be faithful to provide an “out” so that we might avoid the sinning.
And when we consider stories like Job losing all his kids, his finances, and his health at once, do we really think, “God didn’t give him more than He could handle!”
Or David fleeing for years in the wilderness?
Or the prophet Jeremiah, enduring a lifetime of persecution and rejection for doing what was right?
Or Jesus the Messiah, sweating blood in the Garden of Eden, calling upon God to see if there is any way that this horror might be avoided (Lk 22.39-44)?
I know Christians who have been abused, who have been cheated on, who have endured chronic and debilitating illness, who have buried young children.
Yes, they survived. But to try and cheer them with, “God knows what you can take, and you must be able to take this!”?
This seems at best, unhelpful, and at worst, devastating.
Consider Paul’s words, in the midst of his own suffering:
8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers.” (2Cor 1.8-11)
It’s right there: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself,” (v.8).
Paul is not saying, “God didn’t give us more than we could handle!”
Paul is saying, “This was so far beyond what we could handle!”
But – these trials, so beyond what a human could handle, caused them to rely on God, “who raises the dead” (v.9).
“Our ability” to handle things is actually pretty weak. There is much that happens in this life that is beyond what we can take.
If we’re not careful, we can cause people to feel shame in their trials, if we are suggesting that they shouldn’t feel overwhelmed because “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
We can absolutely experience more than we can handle in this life. There are pains and hardships in this life that are overwhelming.
When these times come, our ability to handle things ourselves falls apart.
And that’s when grace is meant to kick in.
When we come to the end of ourselves, there is a dead-raising God at the helm who has an uncanny ability to strengthen, support, and give life to those needing a fresh breath today.
That won’t happen if we are overly focused on our own strengths and abilities to “handle” whatever it is that we’re facing.
This life is not easy, and we are never promised that our hardships will be limited to what God knows that we can handle.
We are promised that God’s faithfulness and strength will meet us in the times we are overwhelmed, as everything that we go through is reframed in light of the God who raises the dead.
If the resurrection was possible for Him, then strengthening us in our own struggles will be a piece of cake for Him.
One day, in one way or another, all such hardships will come to an end.
As we patiently await that day, we call upon the LORD to meet us and sustain us with His amazing grace and awesome strength.
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