“God will never give you more than you can handle.” Christians (and non-Christians) say this all the time. Their intent is well meaning. It’s a saying that serves as a stopgap when they don’t know what to say, it seems to point to God’s justice and it offers a kind of hope.
The problem is this: it’s not true and it’s not Biblical.
The Bible verse closest to this says the following:
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT)
This verse cautions against pride without using the word. It reminds us that all temptations are present in everyone’s life. Pride is dangerous. It’s the gateway sin.
But this verse doesn’t say anything about God not giving you more than you can “handle.”
That cliché is actually dangerous, for a couple reasons:
- It teaches that life is fair. Judging by our standards, however, life isn’t fair. It’s important to note God is just and all things work out in His perfect way. But from our limited human perspective, life doesn’t seem “fair” because it’s not. So when we suffer, it seems unfair from our limited perspective.
- It teaches you to look inward for strength. Notice that the cliché says “more than you can handle.” If you’re struggling, the implication is that you need to look into yourself for strength because it’s there, so “deal with it” and “drive on.”
What the Bible actually teaches is that sometimes life is too much for us to handle and we need help. Take a look at these words from Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 NLT)
Look at the sentence I italicized. Paul and his team were “crushed and overwhelmed beyond out ability to endure.”
Sometimes the struggles we face in life, whether physical pain, emotional anguish, addiction, death of a loved one or something else, are too much for us to bear.
But the solution is found is verse 9 from those verses: “we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.”
Suffering and challenges come from a whole variety of sources. I’ll save the reasons for evil for a different post. We can’t control, much of the time, the struggles we endure. But we can control how we respond. Do you try and tackle it yourself? If so, good luck. Or, do you trust in, and rely upon God.
You can’t handle everything life throws at you. God can, and does.