Remember high school pep rallies? Everyone gathers in the gym to get pumped up about some upcoming game, usually the school's greatest rivalry, with one overarching message: we can do it! You leave feeling on fire, ready to conquer the world and believing nothing can stand between you and your lofty goals.
I think the Christian adult equivalent is something most of us have probably said to someone or had quoted to us at some point in our lives: God will never give you more than you can handle. Usually said when someone is feeling overwhelmed and ready to surrender, the phrase often comes from a well-meaning friend intending to help us stay in it for the long haul. You can do it! This ISN'T too much for you. You've got this!
The truth, I believe, is that God DOES give us more than we can handle. In my own life, within the span of roughly six months, I found out my husband was having an affair and he wanted a divorce, had to leave my church and find a new one, had to find a new home, quit the position in which I had been volunteering for nearly two decades, closed my home school, was facing an empty nest as my children were preparing for college, encountered great financial hardship, entered the work force after staying at home with my children for 15 years, started a second job, bought a home, and underwent numerous health problems. At one point during all this, I went four days on six hours of sleep. Oh, and I was going through menopause and severe depression, all while being abandoned by those I had called friends. It was most definitely more than I could handle.
God gave Job more than he could handle too. He lost his livelihood and everything dear to him. In fact, the Bible says the only thing off limits -- the single thing God prohibited Satan from taking -- was Job's own health.
People who say God doesn't give us more than we can handle are possibly referring to I Corinthians 10:13, which says, in The Message paraphrase, "No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit."
However, The Message is the only version that paraphrases this thought to include tests; translations (which, by definition, are more accurate) refer only to temptations, saying, like the NIV, "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." All translations that I've seen say something similar.
As is clear from the text, God doesn't promise not to give us more heartache, suffering, or trials than we can bear; He promises not to let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. The text goes on to say that when we are tempted, He "will provide a way out." The purpose of the passage is to let us know that the things we often think too powerful to withstand -- lust, gossip, bitterness, etc. -- are things with which people have been tempted since the dawn of time, and which have been overcome by countless people, including Jesus Christ.
Suffering, on the other hand, is different. God sometimes allows more suffering than we can bear, and He does so for a good reason -- sanctification. He desires that we would turn to Him in our need, abiding in the Vine in order to "bear much fruit." Paul even said it this way:
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
While we never invite suffering, we can rejoice in it when it comes, especially when it's more than we can bear, because God has entrusted it to us in order to make us increasingly like His Son, Jesus Christ.
Are you enduring suffering today? What Christ-like quality might God want to produce in your life through it?
Father, thank You for allowing suffering in my life, and help me to see it as you see it -- an opportunity become more like You. Show me how you want to use this in my life, and give me the strength to endure it in a Christ-like way.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:10