“God will never give us more than we can handle.” It’s a standard answer to anyone in so far over their head that drowning seems inevitable. We share that Bible verse with loved ones in an attempt to let them know that God is in charge, watching patiently, and He will call a time-out when enough is enough. It’s a promise of fairness, and we all like things to be fair, right? (Plus, we feel so spiritually superior when we can spout Scripture.)
The problem is, that phrase does not appear in Scripture. I wish it did. I mean, it sounds helpful, and it certainly offers hope, but it just isn’t something Jesus–or God or the prophets or the disciples–ever said.
The Bible does say that God’s grace is sufficient for us. That we should rejoice during trials. That God comforts us. That we are to be content. The verse that probably comes closest is this one: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Of course, this really isn’t close. This passage deals with temptations (as in, sins), not trials. Big difference.
The fact is, there is no maximum height of trials over which we are guaranteed we won’t have to jump. So, folks, keep your track shoes laced. I have a few Christian friends whose lives consist of hurdles of Olympic proportions. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. They just get a handle on one thing and kapow! Some other bar, higher than the last, appears.
Take, for example, Edith who lives in Salt Lake City. Her first husband died. Together they raised five children: two turned to drugs; one slipped and fell in the hot springs near his home and had third-degree burns from his neck down; one died from complications due to an overuse of meds; and one is normal. Three years ago, Edith met “Ted,” the man of her dreams. They married, and he convinced her to give up her lucrative real estate business so they could travel the world.
A few months ago, Ted kissed his wife good-bye, reminded her not to forget her protein shake when she went to the gym where they both had a membership, and never came home from work. Texts weren’t answered. Nor were phone calls. As it turned out, Ted had “had enough” and split. No reasons given. Edith went into a dark depression from which she just now is recovering.
So, what’s the answer when the news goes from bad to worse to worser? (And yes, I know that’s not a word.) Well, it certainly isn’t to keep our focus on what is going wrong. Let’s refer to Paul who wrote his second letter to the Corinthians with a list of what he had endured: five times whipped with 39 strokes; three times beaten with rods and shipwrecked; pelted with stones; weathered cold, starvation, sleeplessness and nakedness; and lived in constant danger. Yet he’s the one who preached for us to always be content, never complain and trust God.
So, there’s the answer. We need to cling to the only One who can sustain us. The One who will carry us over the hurdles. The One who wants us to be an example of faithfulness to everyone we meet. The One who asks us to count our blessings. The One who promises that one day, this earth will pass away and everything will be glorious.
I kind of like that answer. It sure beats the alternative, don’t you think?