Thursday, April 29, 2010

Urban Legend: God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle

Have you ever heard the saying, "God won't give us more than we can handle"? It is usually given by well-meaning people to encourage those going through trials and I do not presume to know what everyone means by it when they say it. Perhaps sometimes it is a simple platitude. Perhaps others have a well thought out theology behind it and use it as an abbreviated statement for many well founded truths.

Yet, I wonder where it comes from because as it stands it is not a complete biblical concept. It is similar to the popular saying, "God helps those who help themselves," which is also not in the Bible.

These platitudes may be well intended and may contain partial truths, but are not really very helpful. While they mention God and perhaps sustain a concept of one or more of His attributes they actually place more emphasis on man-centered and humanistic thoughts that focus on our strength rather than God's.

It is possible that the saying, "God won't give us more than we can handle," probably has its roots in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

However, this verse is in the context of how Israel in their trials in the wilderness succumbed to idolatry and other evil. Paul is telling the Corinthians that in trials we are often tempted to sin, but God is always faithful to give us an exit path so that we can endure the trial without sinning. The focus is not on the crass notion of our ability, but rather His enabling grace to be faithful to us and provide escape from temptation.

I think the "saying" derived from this and just took the notions of "God", "will not allow", "you are able to endure it." They leave out the fact that it is talking about temptation and sin and the notions of God's faithfulness and his provision. I think the danger is that we place confidence in man and do not realize how dependent we are upon Christ. While the statement acknowledges God it doesn't give Him all the glory.

Rather than us having some notion that we will be able to "handle" a trial we should really be encouraging people who are undergoing trials with Scriptures that stress God's power and ability and our dependence upon Him for everything. For instance,
1 Peter 5:6-7 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you."

We need to understand that God is mighty and we need to simply humble ourselves before Him by continually casting our anxieties upon Him and watch His mighty hand work. We submit to His will and He will exalt us in His time, but the strength is all His, as is the glory.

The most encouraging thing about this verse to me is that it says, "because He cares for you." For those who have become His children through faith in Christ's work on the cross, we have a mighty God who cares deeply and passionately for us and will exercise His mighty power to prevail in our trials.

My two cents,


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