It's been said to me. It's most likely been said to you. It's engraved on key chains, wood plaques and bumper stickers.
GOD DOESN'T GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE.
I can barely type the words. It is a cliche' I have come to loathe. Here's why.
First of all, it is biblically inaccurate. Our Creator God, who lavishly loves His children, is not sitting on His throne with a magic pain-metered wand meting out heartache, illness and devastation.
The trite saying implies that God gives us just so much sorrow or cancer or financial ruin or emotional abuse and then He stops when we are surely struck down, but not quite destroyed.
What theological misspeak has been preached for generations that makes people think God originates pain? That, my friends, is Satan's MO. He has an army of terrorists prowling about like lions waiting to devour (1 Pet 5:8) God's kids, poised at all times to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).
Satan's MO. Not God's.
Does God allow hardship when He can prevent it? Yes. And I don't know God's mind so I don't know that WHY any better than you do. Sometimes I think he sees what Satan means for great evil, He will be able to turn to much good. Other times, I think God just lets our fallen, sinful world spin around itself, letting natural consequences land where they will.
OK, so what if the cliche' was reworded to: GOD DOESN'T ALLOW MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE.
I still choke on it. Why?
BECAUSE HE DOES allow more than we can handle sometimes.
Can not all of you reading this proclaim that truth? That there have been moments so raw and so black that you thought you would never be able to crawl out of the darkness?
Ask the young widow with 3 children who watched her husband be incinerated in the Twin Towers. Ask my niece Rachel who saw the soft beating hearts of 4 unborn babies, none of which she got to hold. Ask the Filipino family this week, wandering in hunger and thirst having NOTHING left. No possessions, no home, no livelihood, no security, no community. Ask my aunt and uncle who buried their active vibrant son a mere 6 weeks after hearing a cancer diagnosis.
You ASK these people. Just ASK THEM. Was it more than you could handle? I can tell you what any of them would say: "Damn straight it was."
Can't all of us cite people (ourselves included) we know who have simply had too much to handle.....a plate handed to them overflowing with pain? I think we can.
And in that very dark place, I believe God knows that the ones who love Him will turn to Him to seek their sanity, their footing, their peace, and their comfort. They will trust Him to bring them back to a place where they CAN handle the pain. It is probably only in that knowledge....that He knows what He can do to rescue us....that God can stand by and watch what this shaken world and the master of it can dish out to His beloved followers.
If we never had more than we can handle, would we need God at all? If we never went over the edge into the abyss of heartache, would we ever really cherish God's provisions and healing?
The next time a typhoon of immeasurable devastation floods my life and somebody says to me, "You know God won't give you more than you can handle," I am armed with an answer quite different than my usual passive nods have been in the past.
I will say, "You know what, my friend? That platitude holds only dead air. This grief IS more than I can handle. It is simply too much for me to bear right now, but God did not put ANY of this anguish on me. It is not His doing. And I have all the faith in the world that He will carry me to the place where I CAN someday handle it."
Seems about time that we Christians start having a voice about who our God is and who He is NOT.