I am sad when I hear an adult say it; to hear it from a young person was downright disheartening.
We were talking about how to deal with challenges, when one of the young people proudly parroted: “But God never gives you more than you can handle, right?”
And really just plain patronizing, if not downright mean. Have you ever considered what “God never gives you more than you can handle” says to someone who is grieving or sick or dealing with some other challenging life situation? “What’s wrong with you? God wouldn’t give it to you unless God knew you could handle it. Suck it up, don’t be a whiner Just handle it already.”
Good thing the theology behind “God never gives you more than you can handle” is so rotten.
Leaving aside the question of whether “God gives us” situations that challenge us, the most insidious part of this supposed maxim is its focus on self-reliance rather than God-reliance.
In fact, the Bible consistently calls us away from “handling” challenges on our own and invites us to give them to God. Scripture is replete with promises like this one:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:7).
Honestly, I often get more than I can handle in this life; at least, more than I want to deal with on my own. There are times when I am overwhelmed with too many challenges, or with singular events of such a magnitude that I need help.
This week, we’re waiting for some medical test results for my daughter . . . and some of the (prayerfully remote) possibilities are beyond my capacity to handle them on my own. Why would I want to even try?
I thank God that I don’t have to. Jesus died so we don’t have to handle life on our own.
What the Bible says throughout its pages is this:
There is nothing in your life that God can’t handle.
Let’s eliminate “God never gives you more than you can handle” from our repertoire of bumper-sticker proverbs. Instead, let’s remind those who are suffering and sick and overwhelmed that we have a God who comes along side us in our troubles, who carries us when we can’t take another step on our own.
Throw away that bumper sticker!
And let’s hold on to actual words of Scripture, like these:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us (I Corinthians 1:8-10).