“Don’t worry – God never gives His children more than they can handle.”
It’s a common quote among Christians, given particularly to those who are suffering great tragedies in their lives. To some, it can be uplifting and encouraging – for others, it can instill feelings of guilt and incompetence: “If God won’t give me more than I can handle, then how come I feel I can’t handle this? This is overwhelming me – where is God? What is wrong with me?”.
It’s the latter effect that saddens me when I hear people say that God won’t give people something in life that is more than they can handle – especially when there is nothing in God’s Word to indicate that this is even true. The quote is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Again, there is nothing in God’s Word to indicate that He will not give us more than we can handle. In fact, the bible is filled to the brim with examples of just the opposite! Here’s why I think God not only does, but purposes to give us more than we can handle in life:
1. Examples from Scripture
Here are examples of God not only allowing, but calling, situations in people’s lives that fit the “too much to handle” category pretty well, and also God’s response to their trouble:
- God’s promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah (who were over a hundred years old, and barren) that out of their offspring would come a nation that would number more than the specks of sand on the earth, and more than there are stars in the sky. This seemed impossible to both of them – because for mere men, it was impossible – but God was the one who brought about the completion of the promise.
- Joseph, who was betrayed by his own brothers, who sold him into slavery, lied to their father (saying that he was killed), the wife of Joseph’s master attempting to sleep with him, and subsequently falsely accusing him of raping her; and imprisonment. But even after all of this, Joseph came to reunite with and forgive his brothers, saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, emphasis mine). Notice the word ‘intended’? Why didn’t God, through Joseph, say “used it for good”? Because God is sovereign and powerful – He isn’t caught off guard by people’s sins, running around wondering how to re-arrange His plans so that something good will come out of evil. No – God intended the evil done to Joseph, to bring about His good plans for Israel.
- Moses, whose mother had to hide him due to a decree that all male Hebrew infants be killed, then went on to grow up in a different family, never knowing his own; and later still, was called by God to leave his life of comfort and security, and free the Israelites from slavery. Impossible for Moses? Very much so. Impossible for God? In fact, there was even a point where Moses was so overwhelmed, that he asked God to kill him as a show of compassion (Numbers 11:14-15). Was this task, set by God, impossible and too much to bear for Moses? Definitely. But again we see God’s providence and power at work: “The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”. God went on to sustain Moses through the task he had been given, and though it was impossible for man, it was God’s power and goodness that brought about what He had promised.
- Paul was sent a messenger of Satan (how’s that for ‘hard to handle’?), to place a thorn in his side to keep him from being prideful. Paul tells us, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Along with this, Paul had faced many hardships: imprisonment, flogging, near-death experiences, received forty-lashes five times, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, spent a night and a day at sea, constantly on the move, in danger from various people, experienced some days without food, water, clothing or shelter. In fact, Paul begins the book of 2 Corinthians with this incredible statement:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers,
about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure,
far beyond our ability to endure, so that
we despaired even of life.”
2 Corinthians 1:8
Paul, with his companions, had suffered immensely during their mission trip to Asia – he describes the amount of pressure as “far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life”. The amount of suffering was too much for them to handle – so much so that they despaired even of life, and called on the Lord – to which He responded, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. We haven’t even mentioned the troubles of Naomi, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Job, Jonah, Amos, John, Jesus, the disciples, and countless others. No, these same sufferings may not come to all – but suffering and trials are promised to all Christians (1 Peter 5:10-11, Mark 10:29-30, James 1:2-18, John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12, etc.), and we should respond with a mind and heart that is conformed to the image of Christ by knowing and trusting in His Word.
2. The Impossibility of Self-Salvation
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19
As can be seen clearly throughout the bible, God often brings about circumstances that are beyond our control, comprehension, and our capability to solve or endure. But along with the promise of troubles, we also have the promises of our great God to sustain us through them (as He did with Paul), His purposing of them to bring about good, and/or to deliver us out of them:
- In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1:6)
- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
- And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.(1 Peter 5:10)
- Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
- Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.(Job 14:1)
- 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. (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
- The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exodus 14:14)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
- Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:35)
- Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:2-8)
God sets impossible tasks for us so that we can clearly see our desperate need for Him – not just in salvation, but in every aspect of life. It is also through these tasks and circumstances that God works with great power, healing and grace in our lives. Only God can sustain us through times of the most overwhelming despair – and it is this revelation of grace and power that sustains us.
3. God’s Revelation Through Grace
If you don’t think much of your sin, you won’t think much of your Saviour – similarly, if you don’t think much of God’s daily grace, you won’t think much of His power. It’s hard to fathom God being able to bring about powerful healing and deliverance in our life if we have never experienced it for ourselves, or seen it worked out in others’ lives. If the bible was full of stories of self-competence, self-worth and self-deliverance, we wouldn’t consider God to be powerful – especially not as powerful as He reveals Himself to be in the lives of the afflicted.
Suffering affliction is one of the ways which we experience the heights of God’s grace, power and love for us in our temporary lives – a brief glimpse of the glory we will behold one day in heaven! We as Christians are told to rejoice in these glimpses – temporary troubles – for they are incomparable with the glory and joy that is to come (Romans 8). What a great encouragement!
4. Bringing About the Most Glory to The Most High God
“In this you rejoice, 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.
1 Peter 1:6-7
The next time you hear someone say, “God never gives us more than we can handle”, remember this: for the Christian, God purposes suffering in life to bring about praise and glory and honour to Him – and in this we can rejoice, because though we suffer all kinds of trials and tragedies, God sustains us through it all out of His great love for us; not only that, but it produces in us a tested genuineness of faith, endurance, hope, character, faith, strength, joy, and leads to a deeper, richer intimacy, affection and love for our great God!
And that is why we rejoice in suffering! Because we have a powerful, loving, wise, awesome God, who is so powerful, and so good, that He uses and purposes evil to actually work out for our joy and His glory! How AWESOME is that!
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ” Romans 11:33
“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:9b-10, 13