There is a popular saying which has circulated within the Christian community for years. A sentiment typically voiced during “rough patches” in a person’s life. It generally sounds something like this:
“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. If you’re like me, you have probably said those words at some point in your life. They are spoken with a true desire to be encouraging to a friend or loved one facing a difficult event. Perhaps you (like me) have repeated the phrase to yourself as a form of self-comfort.
But there is a problem with this popular notion. Such sentiment is not found in the Bible—and it’s simply not true.
Ask anyone who has suffered a devastating illness (or knows someone who has) about their experience. Talk to any parent who has lost a child to death (including a miscarriage or abortion). What about the people who have lost their job or home? Talk to a man or woman who has lost their spouse to a divorce they never wanted in the first place.
The truth is, many experiences in life are blind-siding, overwhelming, painful, and leave one grasping.
Which leads me to the other reason why “God will never give you more than you can handle” as a platitude is hardly helpful. It suggests we should be strong enough to deal with anything which comes along—on our own—which is not what the Bible teaches.
The Bible tells us our hope and strength come from the Lord:
Isaiah 41:10 ” fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
1 Chronicles 16:11 ”Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
Exodus 15:2 ”The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Philippians 4:13 ”I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
So where does this idea that “God will never give you more than you can handle” find it’s origin? I’ve heard it taught (and also believe) it’s a re-working of a verse found in one of Paul’s letters:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
Temptation. A far cry from what most people envision when telling someone going through a crisis to (essentially) “Buck up. You just need more faith”. What this verse promises is that God always provides a way of escape from those things which entice us toward sin—so we always have a choice to be obedient and faithful to Him.
God does not say we are to overcome the troubles of this world on our own.
Such a belief (even if unconscious) sets a person on a course of self-sufficiency (while expecting God to “fix” things when asked). It leads people to believe we will never experience troubles, trials, difficulties, or pain as a Christian. Trust me, this can lead to a serious crisis of faith as it appears God is not answering our prayers for relief or providing a miracle or doing what we think we need in the moment.
It can lead a person to believe God is angry or punishing them through adversity for not having enough faith.
What God does promise is He will never leave nor forsake us. He tells us in our weakness He shows Himself faithful and strong. What Jesus says in scripture is “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” God is for us, has a good plan for us, and goes before us into battle with the enemy (indeed He has already obtained our victory).
What a blessing it is to know God is always with me. I take courage in the knowledge no matter what temptation I face, all I need do is look to God. He will provide the way out of it—I just have to be willing to take it. And what a comfort it is to know, when I can go no further, God Himself has been carrying me all along.