I was twelve when my dad passed away. I was nineteen when I woke up from surgery after a car accident that easily could have cost me my life. I was twenty-six when I received an “extremely abnormal, could be cancer” diagnosis of a spot on my skin. I was twenty-seven when I had a miscarriage. I was twenty-eight when I experienced 21 hours of labor.
More times than I'd prefer, I feel like God has given me more than I can handle. I’ve learned the hard way that the old adage, “God will not give you more than you can handle” is a lie to make us feel better, not a truth for us to rest in and find relief. Indeed, God will give us more than we can handle if that trial will make us more like Jesus or turn our attention to obedience. Every situation will be worked for our good (Romans 8:28), as promised in Scripture, but His good may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves or even defined as good.
We hate to think about it, but sometimes God's good for us is embracing unimaginable heartbreak or even harm. I am always reminded of the remarkable story of Stephen (Acts 6-7 when I think about God's good for His people. I'm sure he felt he was being handed more than his fair share of hardship when he was thrown outside the city and stoned, And yet, just before Stephen's death he delivered an impassioned speech to the Sanhedrin, tracing the history of Israel from Abraham to Solomon, showcasing God's faithfulness to His unfaithful people, and pointing to Jesus as the Righteous One. We know Paul was present at this speech, and I can't help but wonder if this speech haunted him and began softening his heart toward the Lord.
After Stephen was stoned, the church scattered because of persecution (Acts 8:1). This was a difficult time in the life of the church, but because they were scattered and preached the Gospel wherever they went, the church grew. Stephen’s too much to handle set in motion a sending out of those who trusted Jesus that would result in many believing in Him who would have not had the chance to hear had the church not been persecuted. God used this moment for great good.
I think about Job, Joseph, and those we see in the Gospels born blind or desperately needing healing. Each of their suffering seems to much to bear and was not the effect of anything they had done. Instead, each was an opportunity for God's good. Job gave glory to God and was faithful to Him even in his loss. Joseph made a way for God to continue the lineage of Jesus when a great famine hit the land. Those healed showed that Jesus was who He said He was because He had the power to heal them.
The Gospel screams that God will give us more than we can handle, as we see God send Jesus to to lay down His rightful place in Heaven for earth, His deity for flesh (Ephesians 2:6-8). He withstood a punishment He did not deserve so that we might have a right relationship with God (Isaiah 53:5). God does work all for the good of those who love Him, even in the darkest day.
I pray that I will come to expect God to give me more than I can handle and that I will always respond with joy, knowing that God will use it for good because He is in control, and He loves me more than I love myself (and that's way more that I'd like to admit). May we rest in His promise to walk those times with us, being enough of us and giving us His strength to withstand the storm.
"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
Note: I think the verse well meaning-people share in times of difficulty is from 1 Corinthians 10:13: ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.'
In this passage in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is issuing a warning to the Corinthians - that they are not to live like many Israelites who saw the greatness of God over and over again, and yet still chose to disobey. God has promised to not allow temptation to be too much to handle, but He doesn’t say anything about holding difficult situations from His people.