There are times that life just seems to give us way more than we can handle, and we feel like, if one more bad thing happens, we are just going to fall apart. I know I’m not alone in having those moments when I just wrap my arms around myself, crying so hard I can barely breathe, in so much pain and agony with life situations I can’t stand it anymore. And I’ve tried to believe that God would never give me more than I could handle. But time and time again, life proves too much for me.
When we look at Scripture, we see stories told of people who experienced so many agonizing situations, that we wonder just how they survived. The story of Job is one of those (you should go read the book…it’s a good one!). Paul’s missionary journeys, which we read about in the New Testament, are filled with terribly painful situations that many of us would have given up if faced with. And then we read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying before His arrest and the worst night of His life. He told His friends that His “soul was crushed to the point of death (Mk 14:34-36)!” He even begged God twice to stop all of it from happening.
But in the midst of all the pain and agony that these biblical fellows experienced, we see that, instead of giving up, or trying to figure things out for themselves, they turned everything over to God. Jesus prayed that it would be God’s will, not His, that would be done. Paul confessed that in the midst of the bad situation, he learned to rely on God and turn his burdens over to God, and God rescued him! Later Paul penned a beautiful promise and truth that busts this myth. Instead of saying that God never gives us more than we can handle, he proclaimed: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)!”
Turning to God, giving Him our burdens, cares, and worries, we are strengthened by Christ to endure whatever life throws at us! You don’t have to go through it alone. And there will be times in your life when you simply can’t. We know that! We’ve lived it. Life will give us more than we can handle. God will give us the strength to get through whatever life gives us.
But how? How does God strengthen us? A lot of it comes from understanding that we are not going through the bad stuff alone, in our own strength. In fact, when we rely on God to get us through, we have the strength and power of the Almighty Creator of the universe behind us. That’s a lot of strength. And we rely on a God who has suffered, just like we do; who knows how hard life can be. That’s a lot of understanding. That is the God who is there for us. When we rely on Him to get us through, we experience a kind of crazy peace in the midst of tough stuff. I don’t know how it works, and it doesn’t make any rational sense how you can be in the pit of life and be at peace, but it happens!
God works in our lives to bring good things even in the midst of the bad. And God also gives you strength through the helping hands and caring words of others. You see, God created us to be in community, to desire relationships with one another. When life is tough, those relationships- those people- are there to lend a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on. They are there to give us courage, to listen to our troubles. It may sound cliché, but God puts people in our lives, especially other believers, to be the hands and feet of Christ for us. It is through relationships, through church, through small groups or family or friends, that God strengthens us, encourages us, and enable us to get through whatever life throws at us. So I encourage you to cultivate relationships now, so God can use them when you are struggling. And when you do struggle, lean on them and experience God’s strengthening. It’s a pretty amazing, and mind-boggling thing, but it’s how God works!
Sermon Notes for “Biblical Mythbusters: Myth #2” from Feb 16, 2014
Myth #2: “God never gives you more than you can handle”
A nice sentiment; completely understandable why we say it and believe it; it’s encouraging and comforting
But it doesn’t really match with real life:
We experience many struggles, illnesses, devastation, loss- painful situations that are much more than we can handle, that even bring us to our breaking point
1 Corinthians 10:13 is misquoted and misunderstood to say that God never gives more than we can handle
But it really says that God will never allow you to be tempted more than you can stand
Temptation is a choice that we are faced with:
When we are faced with a tempting choice, God promises a way out of it
The difficulties and pain of life are not temptations, but are the result of life, of sin, of external forces we may have no control over
So what about this saying? –Need to look at it in two parts
1)“God never gives you…”- implying that everything in life comes from God
We saw last week that things in life, especially the bad, happen not because of God, who is good and loving, but because of sin, and free will (See last week’s message and blog for more discussion)
God’s purpose is not for us to go through the bad situation, nor does God give us those bad situations
John 10:10- it is God’s purpose to bring life, but the devil’s purpose to steal, kill and destroy
To claim that God gives the bad is to claim that God is really the devil- not a claim I will make!
2)”…More than you can handle.”- implying that you can and should do things on your own
We know that life often gives us way too much, and some just aren’t strong enough to handle it
Evidenced in the national suicide rates: +38,000 in 2010, with an estimated 418,000 attempts
If we believe this saying, but go through so much we feel like we will break, we tend to feel inadequate, or like God has forsaken us. And we feel like God is behind all the pain, telling us to “suck it up!”
This is WRONG THEOLOGY! It is wrong thinking about God, and wrong thinking about life!
So what is right theology?
Life is tough, bad things happen: We experience it in our own lives, see it in others, even read it in Scripture
2 Corinthians 1:8-9a: Paul struggled with a situation that was far too much for him to deal with
We read it in the Psalms, and the entire book of Job is about suffering so terrible he couldn’t bear it
We see it when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest- Mark 14:34-36
2 times Jesus prayed that God would stop things from happening, and said that His “soul was crushed to the point of death!”
But even in those tough times, we shouldn’t rely on ourselves, but turn to God, as Jesus did, as Paul did
2 Corinthians 1:9b-10: Paul knew, as Jesus did, that he couldn’t go through things without God. When he turned to God, trusted and learned to rely on Him, God rescued him and he was able to endure.
When we rely on God, we can handle everything that comes our way:
Matthew 11:28-30: Jesus calls to us to bring our burdens to Him, and He will give us rest. He can, and wants to, carry our burdens so much better than we can
Philippians 4:13: Paul tells us that, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Life will give you more than you can handle! But with God we can get through everything life throws at us, because Jesus will give us the strength to!
Rather than being just a want, or a convenient symbol of love, or a reason to do good deeds, God is the very air we breathe, and He is the only one who can, and desires to, make it bearable when life is anything but bearable!
We need to stop telling and believing the lie that God won’t give us more than we can handle! Life will give you more than you can handle…but with God, you can make it through it all!
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.