“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.