“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
That sure sounds good. Too bad it isn’t true! Here’s why.
People who say this are usually trying to encourage someone who is suffering or facing a difficult situation. They usually have 1 Corinthians 10:13 in mind. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” While the intention to encourage others is good they are twisting Scripture to make it say something it doesn’t.
The word translated “temptations” can refer to a temptation to a sin, a trial, or any type of suffering. So how do we know which meaning to take here? We know because context determines meaning. For example if you see the word “tear” you need to see this word in its context to know if someone is ripping paper in two, running fast down the hall, or having a good cry.
In the preceding verses Paul is talking about Israel’s sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and grumbling. He isn’t talking about trials and suffering. So when Paul writes 1 Corinthians 10:13 the context demands we understand he is writing about temptation to sin. Sin stalks us but God is faithful and provides a way of escape so we can resist.
When people take those words about temptation to sin and apply them to trials and suffering then the statement is not true. In fact the opposite is true: God does give us more than we can handle.
Consider Paul’s experience. 2 Corinthians 1:8–9 clearly shows that God may give some people more suffering than he or she can handle. Paul says he and his companions “…were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die.” When Paul says this he is saying he had more than he could handle.
So why does God give us more than we can handle? Read the rest of the verse. “But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again.” He gives us more than we can handle by ourselves so we will depend on Him.
Paul wrote more about his personal experience with this truth in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.
“… so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (MSG)
Because of our sin nature our default mode is self-sufficiency and independence from God. Rather than allowing His power—the power of Christ’s Holy Spirit who lives in every believer—to replace our weakness, we naturally try to handle things on our own.
To say, “God will never give you more than you can handle” just reinforces this error. The result is being overwhelmed. Paul tells us it was when he did not have the strength to face his own suffering that he found God’s power and faithfulness was sufficient to provide what he needed.
In our attempt to encourage sufferers let me suggest the following phrase instead. God will give you all the grace you need in every situation. No matter how much suffering people face, and how deeply they hurt because of that suffering, they need to know the truth that God’s grace will be sufficient for them in all their needs.
Focusing on our suffering and our own ability to handle it doesn’t bring comfort. Focusing on God and His resources for us in suffering does bring great comfort and hope.
God will never give us more than He can handle.
Other articles you may like
- Good News: Life is Not About You by Pastor Chuck Swindoll
- Resisting Temptation by Insight for Living Canada
- Strengthening Your Grip on Godliness by Insight for Living Canada
- Endurance Strategies for Hard Times by Robyn Roste