Does God Give You More Than You Can Handle?

3963368371_095254caf0_z“God won’t give you more than you can handle!”  The promise sounds beautiful and encouraging — like poetry from a greeting card.  Many claim it as their favorite Bible verse.  The only problem is that it’s not in the Bible.  While Hallmark may make this promise, God does not.

As strange as this may sound, this should come as a relief to you.  First, history and experience vividly illustrate that it is not true.  Imagine making this promise to a Jew in Auschwitz, or a parent who has just lost their only child, or a person with stage four pancreatic cancer.  Who wouldn’t be tempted to punch a person in the face for giving such “encouragement”?  Second, it should relieve you that the Bible is for real people, not just those so sheltered from life’s hardships that they naively fall prey to sentimental well wishing.  Third, identifying this promise as false will help you more quickly recognize the real Jesus.  He came to earth precisely because we’ve failed to handle what God has already given us.

So yes, God gives us more than we can handle.  In fact, Jesus seemed intent on putting his disciples in impossible situations — way beyond what they could handle.  For example:

“Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side. . . [the boat was] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them and in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.”  Matthew 14:22,24-25  and Mark 6: 45-52

When a dangerous storm hits, where is the last place you want to be?  Flailing about the sea in a tiny fishing boat might qualify.  Yet, that is exactly where Jesus sent Peter and the disciples after they helped him feed 5,000 hungry people.  Why would Jesus send his exhausted friends into a devastating storm?  Jesus even lingers on the shore until the LAST watch of the night before He walks by their sinking boat.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Jesus intended to pass them by (according to Mark’s account).

Children’s Bibles gloss over these details.  As a child, that’s probably why I confused Mr. Rogers and Jesus.  Mr. Rogers would never give us more than we could handle.  But the real Jesus is not so tame or predictable.  He seems fine overwhelming us with more than we can handle so that we see our need for Him.

Think about Peter’s experience with Jesus in just one day.  After working all day, Jesus asked him to feed five thousand people.  With what?  Five loaves, and two fish!  Really?  Then Jesus sent him into an unyielding storm.  Peter strained at the oars all night long, unable to bring his boat to safe harbor.  When Peter realized he could not handle his situation, something dawned on him.  He cried out to Jesus in desperation and Jesus responded.  He enabled Peter to walk on water.  But Peter, habitually self-reliant, turned his gaze from Jesus.  As Peter sank into the depths, Jesus grabbed him.  Even in Peter’s best moment, he was clearly in over his head.

In a specific situation, we may never completely understand why God gives us more than we can handle.  We’ll feel frustrated and even terrified when it happens.  But God will use it to replace our self-reliance with a fuller reliance on Him.

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6 thoughts on “Does God Give You More Than You Can Handle?

  1. I laughed and then blanched at the point you made with Children’s Bible stories. Going over my Sunday school favorites, I now find that there are much darker elements and trying times chronicled than I was told as a child. The kid versions were never left unfinished and they tell have a good ending with a nice lesson wrapped up. It’s hard to live real life where things don’t wrap up so nicely. Sometimes we get so discouraged or flat it’s hard to see why. It’s tempting to miss the true ending of the story where God calls us home. I tend focus on the troubled times I am going through now.

    Renewed reliance is indeed needed.

  2. Thanks for the sharing this, Dave. I’ve met a number of people who try to use 1 Cor. 10:13 to say that God won’t give you more than you can handle. But God not allowing us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and God not giving us more than we can handle are not equivalent. Your examples about how God regularly puts people in circumstances that are beyond what they can handle in order that they might depend on him are very instructive.

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