There is a phrase that is often quoted when someone is going through major trials. It usually goes something along this line “God will not give you more than you can handle.” I am not sure where it originates from although Mother Theresa is noted for saying “I know God will not give me more than I can handle I just wish He did trust me so much.”
This phrase is quoted by Christians and non-Christians alike. I am sure it is meant to encourage the one who is currently struggling. But I am a bit confused at just how is it encouraging to anyone. After all if I am going through something that is extremely difficult and I feel as if I am about to go under somehow that quote is suppose to make me feel better?
More often than not I imagine it makes the person feel as if maybe they aren’t doing something right. Maybe they aren’t strong enough? Or their faith is weak? Maybe they lack trust? You’ve just told them God wouldn’t give them more than they can handle and yet they feel as if they can’t handle their circumstances, so it must be some kind of weakness or failure on their part, right?
Some of you are thinking right now “wait, but doesn’t God’s word say that?” Doesn’t it say he will never give us more than we can handle”? No it does not. No where will you find the phrase. And furthermore when we use it to try and comfort someone we are in danger of misrepresenting scripture and give someone a skewed view of God.
But what about the verse 1 Corinthians 10:13 you say? When questioned it is the verse most are referring to saying that it says God will not give you more than you can handle but will provide a way out.
To read that verse in context is very important, in fact we should always read a verse in context. In verse 7 Paul is talking about not being idolaters, or act immorally as their forefathers did. He is warning them not to fall into sin and then says
“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, so that you will be able to endure it.”
The verse following 13 says “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Paul is telling the church that God will not allow you to be tempted to the point that you can not turn from it. We will be tempted but God will always make a way for us to flee from sin.
Besides if God didn’t give us more than we can handle then why rely on God? According the the phrase quoted I should be able to handle it right? We know that’s not true, and yet we go on repeating the phrase. Some will say “well of course we can’t handle it apart from God. God won’t give us more than we can handle with Him.” Really? But how am I suppose to know what you meant by the quote, especially if I am a new believer or non-believer?
If we want to encourage someone who is currently under heavy trials and suffering maybe we should just be there, give them a hug, pray with them and for them. Then remind them of truth, remind them of what James says “that the testing of our faith produces endurance” “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” Or 1 Peter where Peter reminds them of the sufferings of Christ and in 1:13 says, “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” and the says in 4:12 “beloved do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which come upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you”
If you read Hebrews chapter 11 you will find a whole list of people who faced things I am sure they felt they couldn’t handle, and yet by faith they endured through the various sufferings that God allowed in their lives. Why did he allow it? Why does He allow us today to go through more than we can handle? Apart from the suffering we can face to due to sin God allows us to face various trials in order to test our faith. He wants us to learn endurance. He wants us to learn that His grace is sufficient.
My encouragement to you today if you are feeling overwhelmed with your sufferings is to remember that Jesus never expected you to handle them. It is only through His sufficient grace that we can endure. Here is the joy of our trials, Jesus is with us, He wants us to allow His strength to shine through our weakness. He is teaching us endurance and making our faith stronger.
And He has said to me, "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. 2 Cor 12:9-10