“God only gives you what you can handle.” It’s a well-intentioned statement I hear often. I used to say it myself, but the longer my suffering has perpetuated, the more restless I have become with that statement. Is God the one giving me this suffering? I surely don’t feel like I can handle this, so does God have me confused with someone else who would be stronger and more equipped for this?
My uneasiness about my situation and how this could have happened in my life has caused me to dig into my faith and question some things, this being one of them. Any spiritual lessons I’ve learned have certainly come from struggle and from a place of inner pain. It’s not like things have gone smoothly and I’ve just woken up with some new enlightenment- the turmoil has been the catalyst to my spiritual growth. The more I grow, the more my perspective changes.
“God only gives you what you can handle” never comforted me, but with good reason. First of all, it isn’t biblical! Those aren’t Jesus’ words. It’s one of those things that sounds like a good thing to say, but it lacks validity. Secondly, God’s not the one dishing out stuff that’s hard to handle. Life happens. Things happen as a result of our fallen world. God’s not sitting there trying to push each of us to the brink. Sometimes it may feel like that, but that’s not who God is. The enemy of our soul can sure dish out the roadblocks, though, as well plant those seeds of doubt.
In my experience, it’s life that’s dishing stuff out, and life just about always gives me more than I can handle! God’s not giving me grief, but life surely is. God is providing me with abundant grace to get through this though. And that’s the key. We’re not supposed to handle all of this on our own. We just plain can’t. But He can. So, we are to lean on Him to get through all the stuff we can’t handle on our own.
One of my favorite scripture verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” That one sentence is so rich. The first thing we have to do is acknowledge and accept our weakness. We are humans, and we are broken- all of us. Ouch! That’s okay though, because God’s grace makes up for everything that we lack. Isn’t that a relief? It makes it easier to let go knowing that we can’t do it on our own anyway! Our weakness is the space in which God works, and it’s the place in which we can more clearly see His power and glory. He doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves in our inherent weakness. Instead, He gives us sufficient grace to handle what we need to handle, even though we’ve done nothing to earn that grace.
Let me use my life as an example. I live with a constant headache and a tremendous amount of muscle pain that limits me greatly. I can’t do many simple things that most people take for granted. I’ve missed out on so much, and I don’t have a husband or children like I hoped to have by this point. I lost my dad. I do incredibly difficult research for 8-12 hours a day most days even though I never wanted to do this or had the proper background for it. I haven’t been on a vacation in nearly 17 years. All of this takes a toll, and I feel spent. Yet in the midst of these unfortunate circumstances, I keep going. I work at a level for which I wasn’t trained. How? God’s grace!
There’s no way I would be able to keep going (or to do anything) without His grace. I’m certainly not capable of sustaining all of this pain and grief on my own. My situation is beyond crummy, but God’s giving me the grace to handle it. Hopefully some of the work I’m doing will benefit others, and hopefully some of my story will lead others closer to God. What I’m doing is not of my own accord, but I must be a willing participant in accepting His grace and in allowing Him to bring good out of a bad situation. The fact that I can keep going is solely a testament to God’s grace. I’m not sharing all of those difficult things about my life to be a downer; rather, I’m trying to show God’s power in sustaining me through all of this. There’s no way I could get through this on my own, but I can persevere with and because of God, and He will bring good out of it.
When people say, “God only gives you what you can handle,” I think the sentiment they mean to convey is that God is always with us, giving us strength and helping us carry our burdens. What God tells us is that His grace is always sufficient to get through whatever life throws at us and to carry out His plan for us, even in the midst of the mess. Life is always going to be more than we can handle, but God’s grace will allow us to handle it! We don’t have to create our own strength- our strength comes from Him. We are enough because of Him. Thank God for that.