I heard this the other day...
“God won’t give you more than you can handle…” What?
May I just say this platitude doesn’t sit well with me. You might say, “But people say this all the time when someone asks for prayer.” Well, my friends, let’s dig in and see what we can find out about this statement.
I want to start by expanding our thought process around the reasons why well intentioned people might say this—or any other cliché. It’s a well-known fact that we live in a world fraught with dangers, toils and snares1. Stuff happens. When someone we know makes a public announcement of a current challenge it’s often accompanied by a request for prayers. Some who hears this may have been through a similar challenge and might know what the sufferer is facing. You know the old saying “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.” Others may hear the announcement and think “Glad that’s not me.” Still others are just good at offering compassion and genuinely feel awful about that person’s situation.
It’s part of being human that leads us to feel as though we need to respond with some words, maybe an impactful statement that might send a message to the sufferer. We want them to know they are not suffering alone. We might feel like we need to reassure them and try to alleviate their fear. Most times we know nothing we say will reverberate with that person, but we say it anyway. It’s a social construct that we blindly follow, often without giving our words a lot of thought. We just blurt out the words we have always heard. But what message are we really sending with a cliché like the one I am talking about here?
Before we answer that question, let’s break down the cliché. First of all, let’s talk about God. I am a Bible-believing Christian and Jesus follower. But do I know everything there is to know about God? No way. Here is what I believe. God created everything, is 100% good, and has plans not to harm you but to prosper you. 2 Does this knowledge about God reconcile with the idea of him “giving” you things to handle? I’m going to challenge this notion with a more biblical idea. God allows things to happen. Sometimes they are good things and we feel positive emotions. Other times there are challenges that arise and we may feel some of the negative emotions. Consider this. Have you ever heard of a man named Job?
In the Old Testament book of Job, we meet a very wealthy man named Job, who was doing quite well by the standards of that time. If you were keeping up with the Jones’ in those days, he was Mr. Jones. He was also a very spiritual man who “feared God” and was “upright” and “blameless.” In other words, he didn’t deserve any difficulties. He didn’t get ahead by cheating, being selfish, or lying. But along comes Satan, who asks God for permission to tempt Job. God allowed that to happen. Now put yourself in Job’s shoes. Here you are, tending your many flocks, being Dad to your seven sons and three daughters, overseeing your estates and servants, and WHAM. In one day you lose everything; every last camel, sheep, donkey, servant, and every one of your children. What if you were Job and one of your friends said to you, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”? It’s important to note that Job did not blame God or lose his faith. He mourned.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, to coin a phrase. God wants us to rely on Him for everything including when we go through trials and tribulation. If God is allowing a challenge to disrupt someone’s life, it’s critical that the community come together to support that person in whatever capacity is needed. The church can pray for strength, peace, healing, etc. Family and friends can offer their companionship, prayers and other more tangible things. It’s also paramount that the person who is suffering turn to God fully.
When we tell someone that God will not give them more than they can handle it really puts the burden for care back on God. It also relieves our duty to fulfill the greatest commandment. What is that commandment? When Jesus was asked this question he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind…. The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” 3 If you were ill would you just utter some words and then do nothing about it? Of course you wouldn’t.
Be careful what you say to people. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to hear if you were going through it? What’s the takeaway with this blog post? Let your words seek to build someone up, offer to support them, and help them through a difficult time.
If you are facing a challenge, no matter the size, know this. You are loved. You can get through it. Lean heavily on your support network, your family, your friends, and most importantly on God. If someone asks what they can do for you, let them do something even it’s something like listening to you vent about your challenge. Maybe these words won’t soak in like any of the other clichés out there but God knows your struggles and your heart. He loves you like no human ever will.
Yours with questions,
“Amazing Grace” Hymn. John Newton, 1779
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV, Zondervan Publishing
Matthew 22:36,38, NIV, Zondervan Publishing