Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"God Will Never Give You More than You Can Handle" -- Is it True?

A big story in our local news this past week was the suicide of a successful movie director who jumped off the Vincent Thomas bridge. The bridge is a familiar area sight and just a few miles from my home. Initial reports said that this man had just been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. His family has since denied that report, so we must wonder what drove him to this act and to abandon his wife and young sons.

Suicide is an offensive subject to me since I am fighting for my life. It seems to me that he threw away the precious gift of time that God had given him (the topic of my last blog). Is that okay? Is suicide okay in the case of those who have a certain amount of suffering in their lives or a terminal illness? If so, how do you determine the amount of suffering at which it becomes too much? There was much chatter about this event on a cancer blog website that I read. I was surprised that most of the comments folks made were about HOW he did it and that perhaps another method would have been less painful. There was no concern over what may have driven him to do it or compassion for his family that is left behind. It was more like a conversation on how-to tips for suicide. I thought it was so sad and my heart aches when I see through the eyes of people who have no hope.

I have had so many well-meaning people tell me that "God won't give you more than you can handle" as they face the challenges in their own lives and try to encourage me in my battle with cancer. In a way, I'd like to think that was true, and that God didn't have such a high opinion of exactly how much I CAN handle. I've thought it myself, when I heard of a friend who seemed to have more and more bad news heaped upon her. But then the other day I started questioning, thinking yeah, it sounds nice, but where in the Bible does it actually SAY that? Did God REALLY promise us that? Or is it just one of those nice-sounding expressions that people assume are from the Bible (but they aren't), such as "God helps those who help themselves?"

The truth is, the thought comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13:

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."
So this promise is specifically about temptation, not suffering. Although we would like to think we are protected from "too much" suffering, that is a dangerous and false teaching. After being pounded by problems, we might conclude that God has let us down, but the truth is, He will never leave us or forsake us and His grace is sufficient!

The Bible is full of stories of people who were given "more than they could handle." So why does God allow it?

How about the Israelites when they were chased by the Egyptian army and trapped against the Red Sea? That was certainly more than they could handle. Or, consider Gideon and his troop of 300 which God had whittled away from the original 22,000 to do battle against 135,000 enemies. Think that was more than they could handle? In each case, there was no humanly possible resolution and God intervened to rescue them miraculously!

I think God often works this way in order to reveal His power and so that He will get the glory -- not us! It also teaches us an important lesson in relying on Him and not our own strength or "wisdom" as we go through life's inevitable difficulties.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 Paul wrote:
"For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction, which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us. He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us."

God may very well give you more than you can handle -- but don't worry, He can handle anything!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a believer, and I think many Christians do not understand mental illness. When you have severe anxiety/depression/bipolar there are days you just aren't thinking straight. You become irrational, unrealistic. No amount of knowledge seems to help, and those are the times when many people take their own lives. They are suffering, yes, but also many of them are not in their right mind. They need help and support.