Does God give us more than we can handle?
My youngest son was one year old when I started college. Excited, I knew that the burden of balancing school with parenting and working would be hard, but it would be worth it. I prepared the best I could, got organized, and got started. The first few weeks were crazy, but doable. I found my groove, and remained motivated. Then I learned that my oldest son was having vision problems, my work schedule got messed up, and worse, my sister called to tell me that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I was floored and devastated.
I sat in class one night, fighting back tears and trying to focus, but to no avail. My mind was racing, trying to find solutions to problems that seemed way too big. My plate was just too full, and I was about to drop it.
At the close of my class that night, my professor pulled me aside, noticing my peculiar behavior and asked what was wrong. Unable to hold back any longer, I cried and told him everything that was happening. When I was through, I recited the words I’d heard so many people say throughout my entire life: “It’s hard, but I know God won’t give me more than I can handle.”
This unexpected response to a common phrase had rethinking how much God gives us to handle
My professor smiled encouragingly. Then he spoke some truth that I didn’t want to hear. “Actually,” he said, “I found the exact opposite to be true.”
He ushered me out into the busy hallway where fellow students rushed by, eager to leave at the end of the night. Normally I joined them, but I wanted to know why my professor would say something like that, and what that meant for me if it was true.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Take a look at the apostles. They were often given things to endure that most of us can’t even fathom. And before them, there's a huge list of people that God burdened with some huge tasks,--things you might say were too big for them to handle.
“I think that there are a couple of reasons why God did, and still does this. The first reason is to help us grow. The second is to make us surrender. If we were born capable of everything, we certainly wouldn’t need to turn to God for help, would we? When God gives us more than we can handle, he’s helping us connect to him and grow. It sounds to me like you’re in a great spot to do both of those things.”
Driving home, I reflected on what my professor told me, and I prayed. I asked God to help me grow and to surrender more of myself, and I could actually feel my heart getting lighter. I didn’t have to find solutions on my own. I just had to trust that God would guide me through it, and he did. Months later I was still going strong at school, my sister was well on her way to completing her treatment, and my son was getting the help he needed at school.
CS Lewis once wrote about why God allows us to endure hardships. Comparing our present selves to a living house, Lewis explains that when we invite God in, he often begins a sort of renovation. We expect this. And, as Lewis put it, we aren't surprised by the small things getting fixed. But when God starts tearing down walls, adding additions, and making us really uncomfortable, we begin to question what on earth he’s up to. Then we discover that while we thought we’d be made into a decent little home, God has actually been making us into a palace—a place fit for a King who intends to stay and dwell within us.
The experience I had brought a lot of discomfort, but so much growth and opportunity to surrender. I no longer believe that God only gives us what we can handle; I believe he gives us much more. Knowing that has carried me through even more trying circumstances.
If you’re experiencing more than you feel like you can handle, I would encourage you, like my professor encouraged me, to take this time to press into God, lean on him, and ask him how you can grow through it. You aren’t alone. God often gives us much more than we can handle on our own, so press in and take heart.