“Hang in there, God won’t give you more than you can handle!” How often have we been in a hard place and heard these words from someone we know? Or more specifically, how often have we said these words?
I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear this I want to hide, or run in the other direction as fast as I can (which, by the way, isn’t very fast at all). I have yet to try that, but the majority of the time there is a little voice in my head screaming, “That’s not what that verse is talking about!“
I think that this mistaken idea of God not giving us more than we can handle comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13 “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”. (NIV)
However, when I looked this passage up, I noticed that Paul seems to be speaking about idolatry. Earlier in the passage Paul refers back to the Israelites who “celebrated with feasting and drinking, and indulged in pagan revelry” (1 Corinthians 10:7 NLT) and goes on to warn against sexual immorality and idolatry.
I know that the idea of God not giving us too much isn’t meant to be a religious platitude. When we speak it we intend for it as an encouragement. When someone has depression or has just lost their job. Or nothing seems to go along as planned or there is chronic illness in our family. It’s easy to think God won’t give us more than we can handle; in fact, sometimes it’s even comforting to think this.
I think God does in fact give us more than we can handle, so that we learn to trust God, and depend on God to get us through the hard things in life. To stretch ourselves and to be challenged. To discover what we are really made of and capable of. And, most importantly, for us to grow in God, knowing that when God tells us “I am with you.” he really means it, he’s got our back.
One of the more notorious biblical characters, Moses, heard “I will be with you” when he was standing before the infamous burning bush. Shaking just thinking about facing Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt, nauseous at the thought of having to cross the Red Sea with hundreds of thousands of people. And desperately trying to talk God out of making him the leader of all those slaves looking for freedom. Moses’ tactics didn’t work.
Later in the Old Testament, this same conversation happened between God and Joshua. (It seems as though God has a habit of choosing reluctant leaders, but we won’t get into that one today!)
I know I felt similar feelings as Moses and Joshua when God called me to leave my hometown to move to the inner city and serve him there. And, “strangely” enough, God gave me the same answers. I kept coming back to the story of God asking Abraham to leave his homeland and promising to bless him more than he can ever imagine. Abram took that chance. I took that chance…
There most certainly were times when I thought I had bitten off a lot more than I could chew. Days of discouragement and loneliness. Nights of second guessing why I was doing was doing. And the tears. Oh so many tears…
And then these words would come whispering back to me in the night “I will never leave you. I will never leave you. I will never leave you”. And it brought me peace. And joy. And love and laughter. Again and again, the dawn would come for me.
Jesus echoes these sentiments in the New Testament, as if he knew we would need more reminders. How comforting to hear Jesus inviting all of us who are weary (who isn’t?) to come to him with our burdens so that he can give us rest. How appealing! And then one last time, in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” just as he ascended into heaven. One last parting thought for us.
I realize that these words of comfort ring as true for me today, as they did thousands of years ago when they were spoken to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah and countless others who have doubted what God has called them to do, and felt completely inadequate to fulfill their mission. Maybe, instead of saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” we should say, “God will most certainly give you more than you can handle. But he’s got your back!”
How about you? Have you found yourself in negotiations with God lately? When have you felt that God has called you to more than you were equipped for? I’d love to hear of some of your experiences and how God has (or is) been with you in your journey.