Tag Archives: faith

To Much To Handle?

“God won’t give you more than you can handle”. It’s a phrase I remember hearing a few times over the last fifteen months which have been without a doubt the hardest of our lives to date. I only realised the other day that this phrase is no where to be found in scripture. Perhaps the closest it gets is in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

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.

This isn’t the same thing though. Temptation does not come from God but from Satan. God allows us to be tempted but not beyond our ability to withstand it and we can turn to Jesus for help (Hebrews 2:18). God’s own trials and testing are a different matter. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says:

…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of these trials that grieved some of the readers of Peter’s letter were to test and refine their faith as gold is tested and refined in a fire, burning away the dross until all that is left is pure.

If those trials were only up to what God knows we can deal with, what would be the need for faith in him? By testing us beyond our limits to cope he encourages us lean on him and in this way builds up our faith and trust in him, with the ultimate aim of the praise, glory and honour of the Lord.

To me this is a far more satisfying and comforting thought that “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. This sounds to me like you’re expected to deal with the situation by yourself, as if God has given you a problem to solve or a question to answer and left you to it in the expectation that you’ll be able to do it without him.

Does that sound like the same God who says this in Matthew 11:28-29?

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When you feel like you can’t deal with any more pain and sorrow remember that we have a God who knows and understands our weakness and has made provision for us. In our weakness is his strength and what he wants is for us to turn to him and tell him we can’t cope without him. That’s what faith is about, realising that alone we’re helpless and lost and only by calling out to our creator can we have a hope.

These last months may have been the hardest time we’ve ever experienced but we’ve found that not only has it drawn our family together, it’s drawn us nearer to God too and we’re still feeling the effects of that and understanding what it means for us all.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV
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.

The Last Enemy

One of my favourite worship songs of recent years is Stuart Townsend’s ‘See What a Morning’. We’ve been doing a lot of Stuart Townsend’s songs recently, I think our pianist likes him… Anyway. The final verse contains the line;

Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered.

But is death really dead?

When we suffer bereavement death is very much alive and real. In fact at times our lives can seem filled with death. CS Lewis says in his reflections on his own grief at the loss of his wife;

It is hard to have patience with people who say ‘there is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter’. There is death and whatever is matters… You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.
CS Lewis – A Grief Observed.

It’s consequences are real and lasting and painful but for the Christian there is hope mingled with the despair and sorrow. For us death is not punishment for our sins because Christ has already taken care of that, death is our final and ultimate sanctification.

Victory over death, the death of death is promised as a result of Christ’s work. The last enemy.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26

No more death or grief, but that’s for the future. For now we have to deal with death and grief but not as those who are without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Hope doesn’t make death easier to live with, hope will not take away the pain of loss but it gives us a rock to cling to in the storm.

It’s not fair.

Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes circumstances and occurrences are put in our path that cause the normal, everyday things of life to fade into the background or stop all together. We become crushed under the weight of emotion; anger, fear, worry, rage, stress and depression clog up the normal workings of body and mind to the point that it become hard just to keep standing.
Life isn’t fair.
It’s not fair that some live while others die. It’s not fair that a few are rich while many more languish in poverty, its not fair that some are punished unjustly while others get away with murder. It’s not fair!
Job knew more about suffering than most. Step by step he lost his wealth, family and health until he was left with nothing but his life. After some less than helpful advice from his friends he brings his complaints to the God he had so faithfully served. Rather than being met with sympathy God firmly puts Job in his place in a ‘smack down’ quite literally of biblical proportion. Over 4 chapters God challenges Job to understand his position in the world.

God revealed himself and forced Job to come to terms with his own weak and sinful state and his true standing before his awesomely holy and powerful God.

Then Job answered the LORD:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”

Job 40:3-5

Job finally realises his true position under God and his wisdom and love and that whatever Job has lost it cannot be measured against the storehouses of the God he served. Ultimately Job repents of his failings

My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:5-6

But just a moment, the book says right at the start that Job was ‘upright and blameless’ and that even in the depths of his sufferings he ‘did not sin in what he said’ (Job 2:10). So what has he done that is worthy of repentance?

Simply this; that he was, like you and I are, just another sinner. Just another human being living under the curse of sin and in need of a saviour. That a holy and righteous God would even have anything to do with mankind is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Despite our cataclysmic moral collapse as a people following our perfect representatives (Adam and Eve) rebellion in the garden this same God still wants to know you and me, more than that, he loved us so much that he sent his only son to die and take the punishment that was due to us as a race. Talk about not fair…

I’m pretty sure that all this didn’t make Job feel much better about his losses. In fact I’m sure that his experience shaped his personality for many years following the events of his life recorded for us in the Bible. But perhaps that’s the whole point. God doesn’t send us troubles to destroy us but to build us up and to encourage us to rely on him for everything, sometimes though to build up properly you need to demolish a few things first.

If you think it’s not fair then you’re absolutely right, it’s not. There’s no way that we should have stand a chance, we, our whole race, should be dead, condemned by the curse of sin and yet God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…