It’s More Than You Can Handle

Have you ever had someone say to you, “God never gives us more than we can handle”?  I have. And it’s usually when you are going through a very difficult time. This ridiculous statement is often said at the worst time.  If God never gives me more than I can handle, then what does it say about me that I’m not handling my situation? What does it say about me when I’m overwhelmed?

The modern version of this saying is even worse: “Maybe the reason you are going through this right now is that God thinks you are strong enough to handle it.”  Gee. I’m glad God thinks so highly of me.

Of course, this isn’t a Biblical idea at all.  You don’t have to look any further than 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 to see it.

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,2 of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (ESV)

Our hero, Paul, clearly states that he and his compatriots were burdened beyond their strength.  God gave them more than they could handle! Why? Verse 9 answers, “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God”.  Imagine some middle class soccer Mom trying to tell the Apostle Paul that God won’t give him more than he can handle while he is being beaten, abused, imprisoned, falsely accused, and thoroughly persecuted.

The reason this saccharine sentiment has been propagated so widely is that, in actual fact, we believe it deep down.  We believe that God is our escape hatch from difficulty. He keeps the hardship away from us because He loves us. Jesus is always positive and encouraging, He never leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.  Once we give Him the great gift of our allegiance, He will owe us a good life. We will maintain that good favor through regular tithing (not to exceed the 10% stated in our salvation contract), good church attendance, and the occasional free will offering to the visiting missionary.  We might even be so sacrificial as to teach the toddlers a lesson or two.

In the dark and hidden recesses of our hearts we imagine that this is how God’s economy works.  We exchange our worship for His blessings. Worship becomes a kind of spiritual currency that we use to buy the American dream from God.  Of course, this all comes crashing in when a little suffering comes along. You can tell how much of your heart has been co-opted by a Christianized version of the American dream by how quickly you become angry at God when hardship comes along.  I have often been shocked at how out of proportion my frustration with God can be over something as trivial as a flat tire in my driveway. In that moment, my true heart is revealed: God owes me a tire full of air because I’ve been a good boy.

But scripture is full of promises of hardship and suffering in this life.  Our hope is not in a lack of hardship, but our hope is in our ultimate sanctification at the second coming of Jesus.  Our hope is that He will finish the work he began in us.

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