There are common “hard” questions I get asked, as a pastor, and maybe you have wondered about them as well… So now here is Hard Question #6 – “Will God give me more than I can handle?”
In a way… this isn’t a hard question to answer at all. It’s the perception of the answer that can be the difficult part. But before I answer the question, I need to talk about the use of the phrase.
Sometime ago, I provided a funeral service for parents that lost their daughter. The death of a child is definitely more than any parent should ever have to face. I have never had to face that and I hope and pray you haven’t as well. But for any parent who has, I am certain they would tell you it was definitely more than they could handle.
I’d say that is probably the most extreme example but there are certainly many more… a diagnosis of a terminal illness; someone wrongly accused and sentenced to prison or the death penalty; or the heartbreak of losing a spouse to death or divorce… and of course many more, but you get the picture. There are many circumstances we face in this world that take us beyond our breaking points.
One of the most hurtful phrases in the english language is when someone tells you in the midst of whatever crisis you are facing…”God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Worst phrase ever. I hate it. First – it’s nowhere in the Bible. Second – actually, that’s all that matters. God didn’t tell us that so it’s a completely stupid thing to say. If it’s a phrase you use, please stop. Unfortunately while many don’t use that phrase exactly, they have adopted a nearly as painful version in it’s place… “He might give you more than YOU can handle, but never more than HE can handle!” or some such version of that idea Well… they mean well anyway.
Here’s the thing… that second one is closer to the truth, but my recommendation is that you never say that phrase either to someone who is in a crisis. The truth is, just because something may be truth, does not mean it needs to be said. I heard a comedian one time say that he couldn’t understand why his wife was angry at him. She had told him she wanted him to start telling her the truth. When she asked him if the dress she was wearing made her look fat, his reply was – no honey… it’s the 90 pounds you’ve gained since we got married that makes you look that way. Spoken truth doesn’t necessarily equal helpful or needed.
Let’s say that you are absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that either phrase is totally true… God won’t give you more than you can handle or God may give you more than you can handle but never more than He can… how do you believe that either phrase is going to help anyone? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” I like the phrase “fits the occasion.” When someone is grieving they don’t need a lot of your words… they need your embrace and your presence. In fact if your only words are one of these 2 phrases … they don’t need your words at all.
Ok. So now to answer the question: Will God give you more than you can handle? We live in a very broken world and yes… there will be things bigger than any of us can handle but God is NOT giving them to you or causing them to happen. The things we face, that take us to our breaking points and beyond, are the result of our broken world. The road at times will be long, dark, cold and difficult to travel and sometimes when we walk it – it will be more than we can handle. I hope and pray that we, as His Followers, take time to look around us for those who are hurting and step in and love… Let’s please make our actions speak far louder than our words.
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Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.