“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a few months while I’ve been thinking about the topic. By God’s good grace, The Gospel Coalition reposted an article by the same title yesterday. In the moment I thought I’d just scrap this one and publicize that one instead. I chose not to for two reasons: 1) It was published several years ago–so I don’t see a problem redressing the issue, and 2) I felt it didn’t address the how component of the conversation–which is what I wanted to emphasize anyway.
Before I move on, I would strongly encourage you to go and read the article. It’s really good, and I’m going to use it as a jumping platform rather than starting the topic from scratch. Mitch (the author) makes two fantastic points about this cultural proverb: 1) the “wisdom” of the saying tends to point you inward during trials and suffering, while 2) trials and suffering are actually meant to point you Godward. The world tells us to pick ourselves up because God knows our limitations, so even though we’re in a hardship we can do it. On the other hand, the Bible would tell us that it’s these hardships that are meant to show us that we can’t do it, and they should direct us to the one who can.
Both of his points are spot on because whether or not we want to believe it, we’re not “handling” anything. The God who feeds the birds of the air, clothes the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:26-29), and upholds all of creation by the power of his word (Hebrews 1:3), hasn’t outsourced the complete responsibility of our lives to us. The trials and suffering he brings into our lives are meant to point us toward him so that we can see his providence in our lives, hear his words “My grace is sufficient for you,” and display his glory through our weaknesses. The thing that I thought was “missing” is really found in the out-working of how we’re to do this. Given the cultural housing of the saying itself–and therefore the presuppositional baggage we bring into the conversation–it could have been seen that Mitch largely left us in the same place that the cultural proverb leaves us: alone.
After reading Mitch’s article, and under the sway of worldly wisdom, one might then assume that instead of looking in we’re to look up and just try really hard to believe God has a plan in our pain. Conventional wisdom might encourage us now to look Godward and simply try to get through it–whatever it is–by saying, “Okay, me and God. I got this!” while still operating largely in our own strength. Obviously, that’s wrong, and I don’t think Mitch intended any of us to think that. There’s only so much space in an article and I think the contrast his points made we’re extremely appropriate.
To fulfill the how, I would contend that God has given us his Church as a means of grace for times just like this. When he saved us, God called us out of isolation where we only sought our own desires (Proverbs 18:1), and passed our days in malice, hating–and being hated by–others (Titus 3:3). God instead called us into his Body, his Temple, his Bride. He called us into a relationship with himself and others. We’re now able to fulfill the “one another” passages that ultimately call us to truly love one another (John 13:34-34) as Jesus instructed us to.
God provides for us through his Church. As our human bodies care for their parts, so does the Godly Body care for its members. Therefore, whether we’re in pain or trial, we’re certainly to look Godward, but we should also look outward–for where his provision will come from–and expect that God will give us the strength we need to powerfully endure through his blood-bought Bride.