“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 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.”—1 Corinthians 10: 12-14
Mother Theresa is supposed to have said, “I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much.” I’ve heard countless people say, “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”. It’s a positive, life-affirming statement. Whatever our circumstances, we are going to turn out fine. It’s also a misreading of the Word of God and the nature of God. It’s even a dangerous thought.
Buried in the notion that “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” is a selfish pride that can be harmful. A falsehood that, perhaps, you are supposed to handle your troubles. That when you feel like your burdens are more than you can bear, then maybe God isn’t keeping His end of the bargain.
That’s the Devil’s work, my friends. Not the doubting or the despair—that’s human. It’s the sin of mistrust; a sin of believing when things are at their bleakest, we should look inside ourselves for the strength to carry through.
I’ve lost both of my parents; in different circumstances and at different times of my life. My father, a Little Rock police officer, was in a car accident when I was eight years old—on his day off; heading to his favorite fishing hole. Of all of the worries we had because of his job, they were nothing compared to the reality of just how fragile and dangerous everyday life can be. There were many nights I stared at my bedroom ceiling and tried to understand the “why” and more importantly the “what next”. This wasn’t a “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” moment. Everyone in the family was being crushed by more than we could handle.
Thirty-seven years later, my mother succumbed to an ugly, evil cancer that had tormented her for the better part of seventeen years. She didn’t pass away suddenly or unexpectedly. The day she was admitted to the hospital for her final, brief denouement was the beginning of a twelve-day vigil that everyone knew was the end. We had been preparing for her passing for almost three years by then. But those twelve days—sitting with her as she lost consciousness and then lingered —it was far, far more than we could handle.
If we look at the scripture, Paul doesn’t promise us that “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”. Paul teaches that God won’t let us be tempted beyond our ability to resist. That when we are tempted, God will give us the tools necessary to find our way out of temptation.
One of the great temptations we face is that we can handle the trials of the world. The truth is we can’t. God doesn’t want you to handle it. Rather, he wants you to NOT handle it—to give it to Him to handle.
As I stared at the ceiling as a child—as I sat by the hospital bed years later—I can tell you that I had the strongest tool in my kit; I heard the voice of God whispering over and over, “I’ve got you. This will be ok. I’ve got you.”
The world in its natural state is more than we can handle. We have all seen people crushed and beaten down by it. Some days we ARE those people. When we are, it only shows that we’re fighting the wrong fight. Have faith that God and God alone is strong enough to shoulder our weights and worries.
Thanks be to God!