God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle?

more-than-i-can-handle

Through the past few months of trials and testing of our family I have heard a common phrase repeated by people from many faiths and different walks of life. Every time it is repeated to me it has become more abrasive.

“God will not give you more than you can handle.”

 

Every time I hear it I feel like a failure because I still hurt. I feel disabled because I am lacking the ability to endure suffering because “God won’t give me more than I can handle.” I am left at the end of the day saying, “I can’t do this.”

Then I got to thinking, is that statement even true. Does God ever say anything like that? The closest I found was:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:13

That verse is specifically talking about temptation and sin, not trials and not suffering.

My mind wandered through scripture wondering if in fact God won’t give us more than we can handle.

  • What about Moses leading millions of escaped slaves out of Egypt then reaching the shores of the Red Sea only to find Pharaoh’s army breathing down their necks?
  • What about Noah facing a global catastrophe that would wipe out all living things on earth?
  • What about King Jehoshaphat leading Judah into battle with no weapons and only singers?
  • What about a boy, too small for armor, challenging a giant with the freedom of his people at stake?
  • What about a young, secretly Jewish Queen, having the genocide of her people placed at her feet?
  • What about a pregnant, unmarried teenager facing scorn and possible stoning  in order to give birth to the Savior of the world?
  • What about a band of  uneducated, insignificant unknowns being asked to start a global religion?
  • What about a blinded, Christian killer called to be the most prolific writer of the New Testament?

I am convinced that not only will God give us more than we can handle, but he does his best work there.

I am also convinced that the propagation of this lie leaves even mature Christians feeling as if we have missed the mark, as if we haven’t made the cut, or we just aren’t good enough. And we are bad. The truth is we aren’t good enough, strong enough or able enough.  And that’s OK. The truth is that we can’t face the Red Sea, our giants or the death of our children in our own strength. But there is a God who can and will.

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Cor. 1:8-10

I have found in recent months, God has pushed me beyond my own ability to endure. There have been days when I thought I would never live through this. But as a result, I have stopped relying on me. I have learned to rely more desperately on God for every step and every breath.

Today, I take great comfort in the words of a mighty King:

 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!  2 Chron. 20:17

(References: Exodus 14, Genesis 7, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Samuel 17, Esther 4-7, Luke 1:26-38, Acts 2, Acts 9)

Comments

  1. So, the Greek word that is used in 1 Cor 10:13 actually means both “temptation” and “trial”. It’s translated one way or the other based purely on context, but that is an interpretive decision of the translator. It really could go either way.

    • Ben Hastings (@benhastings) says:

      I think that’s missing the point, Joe.
      The point – very well made – is that we can only overcome – any temptation OR trial – only by the strength Jesus supplies. (Phil 4:10-13)

    • You are right that the Greek word could mean trial/test or tempt but the context is about idolatry. Consider the beginning of chapter 10 in verse 7 and again inverse 14. I don’t think it could go either way, the context points us in the right direction.

  2. Stephanie Moody says:

    Wonderful post, Serena. I think also of Philippians 4:13. The key to enduring is the power of Christ, not ourselves. Hold to His mighty hand. He sees. He cares. He will be strong for you.

  3. Stephanie Moody says:

    P.S. I take 1 Cor. 10:13 to mean that God is not promising we won’t suffer or even suffer greatly. He is promising that the temptation or trial won’t be so strong that we lose the ability to keep from sinning. I think of the Christians in Rome who were asked to denounce Christ or be thrown to the lions. They all had the ability to resist the sin, but they didn’t escape the suffering. I love how Sandi Rog depicted the scene of Alethia facing the lions and being welcomed into the presence of Jesus. It will all be worth it when we see Jesus, our elder brother, welcoming us into His embrace.

  4. You are absolutely correct, Serena. Excellent post. Thank you.

  5. I have wondered whether this verse is talking about sin or trials. Within the context, it appears to refer to sin because Paul follows the statement with, “Therefore, my beloved, flea from idolatry.” I looked up other passages where this word is used, including Satan’s temptation of Jesus, Jesus’ prayer that we not be led “into temptation,” and the temptation and “snare” the rich face. These all seem to deal with sin. God provides a way of escape from temptation to sin, but we are not promised to be spared trials in life. I think the author makes a very valid point.

  6. I’ve heard it said that God will not give us more than we can handle without Him. If we keep in mind that He is with us, things may seem impossible, but not nearly as impossible as if we were without Him. I agree though that it’s in those overwhelming situations that we see the power of God and that we learn the most. Just when we’re about to give in, it’s as though God steps in and says “I’m in control, and you will make it through with Me.” It will take time to heal from this incident. It’s been 24 years and my parents are still somber every Valentine’s day (the day Stephanie was born), and every 22 of January too, the day she died. I guess it’s something that never really goes away. Then again it’s something to look forward to – going to heaven to be reunited one day. I realize this does not make things easier, but please don’t feel bad for “not being over it” because that likely will not happen. Some days will just be a little better than others, that’s all. Thinking of you and praying for you!

  7. Sorry, that should have been 22 of February!

  8. Debra Reitz says:

    Wonderful article! You are SPOT ON! I believe the translation of the word “temptation” is correct in the KJV due to the context of the passage. I do not believe it is speaking of the “rain” which falls on the just and the unjust. Many times people mean well when they tell you these things. I much rather take the approach “all things (both the rain and sun) work together for them who love the Lord.” We are burdened with a lot more than we can BEAR…then we have the support of God and the Church to help us bear it. We are supposed to be overburdened because we choose to serve the Lord. You cannot enter into eternal REST if you are NOT TIRED!!

  9. God’s word is so amazing, in that we can hear things or read things over and over in our lives, and then, bang, we suddenly understand it in a new and bigger way, for any number of reasons. Keep the good lessons going, especially these that debunk the common sayings (like those of Shakespeare) that folks mistakenly believe are Truth and Biblical teachings.

    I’d come across this blog entry, and thought you might appreciate… http://betterthandoinglaundry.blogspot.ca/2012/12/god-will-give-you-more-than-you-can.html It reminded me of that old country phrase: “God won’t give you anything HE can’t handle.” God continue to bless you and your family.

  10. I think the saying is untrue because it leaves out something, though the premise is good. God will not LET (give implies that time and chance never try us) us have more than we (is this really supposed to be about our strength???) can handle WITH HIM. If you leave off the with Him, it sounds like we are unbreakable. But we are fragile. There are things that are more than we can bear alone. But… With God, all things are possible, even the trials impossible to bear alone. But simply saying “God won’t give us more than we can handle” is untrue. I recently had a second trimester miscarriage. With God, I am able to have peace in the pain, but when I considered what it would have been like without God, that was a miserable thought, pain with no peace or hope. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Not in my own strength.

    I also think “handle” is a questionable word. What does handle mean? Some would think you are always positive, never lament or shed a tear or wonder why things happened. I don’t think that is what is expected of us. Look at Job and Elijah. God was patient with their feelings because in the end they sought to glorify Him. Tears, cries for help, questions, deep mourning, soul searching, none of those mean we aren’t handling it. Not so long as we keep seeking Him.

  11. Someone read Numbers 11 yesterday during our assembly and I was struck by it. In particular, by Moses’ complaint to God in verses 11-15. Moses was given more than he could handle and I think that is evident when he says, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me…” I have not had to carry millions of whining Israelites “as a nurse carries a nursing child” all the way through the wilderness, but I have felt desperation like Moses. I have effectively said to God,”If you treat me like this, please kill me here and now…” But God was not deaf to Moses’ cries of pain and hurt. God gave him people to help bear his burden (vs. 17). God punished the whining Israelites for their lack of faith and contentment with His provision, and God helped Moses keep doing what He had called him to do. And I believe that God will do the same with us.

    I have at times had to endure things beyond my abilities – things that have left me utterly broken. I am encouraged by the words of 2 Corinthians 9:9-10 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

    There is no shame in weakness because HE is strong!

  12. Cari Rusin says:

    I agree 100%. God will always give us more then we can handle… or we wouldn’t need Him. I questioned this years ago and found the same things you are seeing! Praising God for knowing what we need to go through so He will be glorified!

  13. Thank you for putting this message so eloquently. Having watched 3 of my children go through 9 surgeries in 10 months, then a few years later watching my daughter go through a brain tumor, and this year my husband’s colon cancer, there have been times when I have just been beyond what I can bear physically and emotionally. And although I know people mean well, quoting platitudes aren’t helpful, especially when they misquote scripture. In my experience, after God brings you to the point of absolute brokenness, he puts you back together stronger than you were before. He can’t do that if he keeps you from what is impossible to handle.

  14. Cindy Posey says:

    A parent who has lost a child to death has many temptations that can only be overcome through the power that comes from God. It is tempting (even sometimes to the most faithful) to blame God for the child’s death. It is tempting to give up. It is tempting to lose faith in God and in mankind. It is tempting to lose sight of our heavenly goal. Only with God, we come to realize and feel the power in the fact that He is the giver and sustainer of life, and that death comes to all mankind. Only with God, we see that we can continue in this life after the death of a child, not giving up, but putting one foot in front of the other day by day. Only with God, we can realize that our children are gifts from Him, and that the gift of His Son gives us the opportunity to be obedient to Him and one day join Him, our children, and the saved of all the ages for all eternity. What a blessed Hope! Without hope, we have nothing but despair. A parent who has lost a child to death has many temptations that can only be overcome through the power that comes from God. It is tempting (even sometimes to the most faithful) to blame God for the child’s death. It is tempting to give up. It is tempting to lose faith in God and in mankind. It is tempting to lose sight of our heavenly goal. Only with God, we come to realize and feel the power in the fact that He is the giver and sustainer of life, and that death comes to all mankind. Only with God, we see that we can continue in this life after the death of a child, not giving up, but putting one foot in front of the other day by day. Only with God, we can realize that our children are gifts from Him, and that the gift of His Son gives us the opportunity to be obedient to Him and one day join Him, our children, and the saved of all the ages for all eternity. What a blessed Hope! Without hope, we have nothing but despair. “Weeping may come for a night, but Joy in the morning!” – only through God.

  15. Thank you for sharing the verse in 2 Corinthians, it is incredibly meaningful to me. Sums up the past 8 months. Thank you.

  16. God does NOT give ANY trials or tribulations. I pray you find THAT truth in His Word.

  17. You said this so well. Thank you.

    I’ve had this phrase said to me very matter-of-factly while going through cancer treatment, my mother’s illnesses, among other things. It was more that I could handle. For sure. I don’t like the pat phrases people can often use to make us or them feel better, but I do love that God will use all of it for good. And in the process, He’s also been refining me and taught me the meaning of “Consider it joy…” in James 1:2.

    If we could handle everything, then why did Christ have to die? Right?

    I also agree with your statement “I am convinced that not only will God give us more than we can handle, but he does his best work there.” Reminds me that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 10:9).

    Thank you for a wonderful article that has been very helpful to me. God bless you!

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