Here’s a very common theme I’ve heard a lot lately:
“God will never give us more than we can handle.” There are a few variations on that theme, but I’m sure you’ve heard one version or another.
I wanted to address the Scriptural concept and hopefully discuss it with you all.
Is this concept found in Scripture?
No. Almost, but no.
This aphorism may have originated with 1 Corinthians 10:13, a verse that deals with temptation:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Perhaps we have, over time, replaced “temptation” with “hardship” or “suffering”. Temptation is not the same as suffering, however, and so Christianity has somehow coined a phrase that seems to have no Biblical basis.
I think the phrase is misleading for a few reasons:
1) It makes those who suffer feel like they aren’t good enough, strong enough, or feel ashamed or embarrassed. Why? Because the idea focuses on our own strength, not God’s. And when we aren’t strong enough, we feel like failures.
2) God constantly gives us more than we can bear… alone. Our struggles can be so terrible, so shattering, and so overwhelming that no one person can possible handle that pain. How can we expect them to?
Some Biblical illustration of this:
2 Cor 12:
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God is our strength in weakness. He gives us more than we can bear so that we rely on Him alone!
Moshe, the great leader of Israel, found the same truth:
10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.”
16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.
The Father knows what He is doing. Our burdens are too heavy for us, but never too heavy for Him. And when we see someone suffering we should not tell them they need to be stronger … We should be that strength for them as brothers and sisters in Messiah.
God provided Moshe with 70 leaders to help carry his burden. We could be the people the Father calls to help carry the burdens of our neighbors.