Friday, October 29, 2010

More Than We Can Handle

Corrie ten Boom could not sit back and watch when the Nazis invaded Holland. She became part of the Dutch underground to hide and save the lives of Jews. Corrie was a committed Christian who trusted God and refused to be apathetic to suffering. Ultimately she was captured and put into a concentration camp. She endured unspeakable humiliation, torture, hunger, and fear. Her sister Betsie died in one of the camps and Corrie watched many others die, also. She was a "lucky" survivor who had to then deal with displacement, loss of her community and family, and reconcile her experiences when the war ended.

Acts 6 & 7 tells the story of Stephen. Stephen was committed to Christ and devoted to sharing the good news with others. When he did signs and wonders there were some people who secretly "induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God". And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. (Acts 6:11,12)
Ultimately Stephen was falsely charged, tried and then stoned to death for his faith in Christ.

Do you know what well-meaning Christians probably never said to Corrie or Stephen? They probably never said, "God won't give you more than you can handle."
I think it's safe to say that these people underwent circumstances that were more than they could handle. I'm pretty sure that this cute little saying (that has no Scriptural grounds) is a 'twist' on the verse:
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." 2 Corinthians 10:13
Yes, God is faithful in giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to help us endure temptation. But I think it's safe to say if you die from a circumstance... it was probably more than you could handle. If you end up in an insane was probably more than you could handle. Yet I often hear people say "God won't give you more than you can handle" as though it's a verse or a universal truth.

God does not promise in Scripture that He won't give me more than I can handle. In fact, He gives me plenty of opportunity to realize "It's more than I can handle!" so that I cling to Him instead of my own weak abilities. I am confident that there will be more than I can't handle in this life...if not now then surely whatever preludes my death.

I am confident of something else, also. Before Corrie Ten Boom's sister died she said, "Corrie, we must tell people how good God is. After the war we must go around the world telling people. No one will be able to say that they have suffered worse than us. We can tell them how wonderful God is, and how His love will fill our lives, if only we will give up our hatred and bitterness."
When I read this in high school I marveled. HOW can a person be strong enough to say this- sick, beaten, laying on a cot while bugs bite- right before death at the hands of Nazis? Now I know it is because Christ walks with us in what we can't handle. Betsie wasn't just a 'good person' who happened to be gifted in forgiving murderers. The power of the Holy Spirit gave Betsie tremendous ability to forgive and have an eternal perspective in her temporary pain.

As for Stephen, the masses "gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Then they cried out with a aloud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him...and they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:54-58
Being stoned was more than Stephen could handle and clearly more than Stephen's body could handle. Yet even in the face of death, the face of impossible circumstances, God shows Himself victorious and present. He walked with Stephen. He let him glimpse that the best was yet to come. He again gives the power to forgive, which is impossible apart from Christ.

When we believe silly little sayings like "God won't give you more than you can handle" we come to a crisis of faith when we do encounter things out of our control. If we acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and trust God's sovereignty even in what is unmanageable, we can trust that what He offers is so much more than a smooth ride. My aim (instead of timidly crossing my fingers that nothing will be too hard) is to expect opportunity to depend on a Mighty God's strength and expect Him to walk with me there.

"He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:3,4


  1. Just want you to know ...

    ... you've given me something to ponder. I've been pondering it for the past 24 hours. (As if I don't have anything else on my mind ...)

    Seriously, though, I have used that line. Not flippantly, but seriously. For me, it helps me to stay focused on the fact that God will help me to handle whatever He allows to come my way.

    For me, it is not about what I can handle (in my own strength), but what the Lord and I can handle. Make sense?

    I have used that line, when talking about being the Mother of 12 children. I do not believe that the Lord would have entrusted me with the care of 12 children, if He were not also planning to give me the strength to walk through each and every difficult journey that parenting these children will bring.

    I used that line when I was the desperate mother praying over my 3 year old child that was in a coma ... not expected to live through the night. I KNEW that whether my child lived or died, that the Lord would give me the strength to "handle it" ... to walk the darkest path ... and that the Lord would walk me through to the other side of the journey, whatever the outcome may be.

    Now, I am not at all disagreeing with you. Rather, just explaining what I mean when I might use that "cute little saying".

    I, too, am bothered when I am in the midst of a very difficult trial, and someone flippantly says, "God won't give you more than you can handle.", when I know that they have NO UNDERSTANDING of the pain I am walking through.

    However, as this year is an example, if I were to talk to you today and say, "I know that God won't give either of us more than we can handle." I am saying, "I understand." "We have walked a very similar path this year." (eerily similar, to say the least) It would not be a flippant "cute little saying", it would be said with DEEP understanding of the PAIN that we have each walked through, but with the FAITH that God will give each of us exactly what we need to hang on and "make it through".

    I hope this makes sense. Like I said, I have seriously pondered this for 24 hours before commenting.

    Hope your weekend is BLESSED!!!

    Laurel :)

  2. "eerily similar" is well said, Laurel. Even down to our ridiculous sinus/cough bugs this past week! I understand exactly what you are saying & I know your words are not flippant but completely empathetic. Thank you for your thoughts & for giving me much to stew on for the next 24 hrs. ;)

  3. Wow! I love this. I don't know how I came upon your blog, but it was linked in a craft or sewing blog somewhere. I am a wannabe sahm (I teach 8th grade actually:) and a wannabe "crafty" mom, so I search and search and search blogs. I LOVE your message from this entry. It is so true. I once heard a preacher say, "If you are the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!" I understood what he was trying to say, but I, too, think it gives the same wrong impression. God is strong in our weakness. If we think we can do it all on our own (even if we think God has given it to us)...well where does that leave us? I say, "If you get to the end of your rope, let go!" Let go and give it all to God. He has it all in His hands and His plans anyway! Thank you for your insight. :)