More Than You Can Handle.
"God will never give you more than you can handle..."
At least that's what our coffee mugs and bumper stickers tell us, right? The problem is, the Bible doesn't actually say this. My guess is, this sentiment is the result of paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul writes,
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
Paraphrasing can be helpful when it actually RE-phrases what the author is saying. The danger of paraphrasing is when we actually alter the meaning of the text. That's what happens when we say God will never give us more than we can handle.
First of all, Paul is specifically talking about temptation. Secondly, even the "ability" Paul references is from God. Notice, it's God who "will also provide the way of escape."
The big problem with saying "God will never give you more than you can handle" is that it focuses our attention on our own strength rather than God's. Doing so confuses a Biblical understanding of strength.
In Joshua 1 God tells Joshua to "be strong" four different times. This was a common command in Hebrew appearing some 300x throughout the Old Testament. The command makes great sense in the context of Joshua 1 because God had commissioned Joshua to conquer the promised land. That was going to require an immense amount of strength. It wouldn't happen easily.
But here again, we have to be careful not to confuse the source of the strength God calls for. Remember this command flows from the promise of God’s presence. God had told Joshua and He's told us, that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. The implication is that Joshua find his strength in the promise that God just made to him.
We’re seeing a description here of what Jesus says to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Remember, Paul had what he called “a thorn” in his flesh. No one knows exactly what it was, but it was a humbling and a heavy burden in his life to say the least. Three times he begged God to take it away and instead Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, FOR my power is made perfect in your weakness.” This tells us so much about what strength looks like in the Christian life.
Fundamental to a Biblical understanding of Godly strength is the belief that it’s borrowed.
I was at the gym one time and a guy asked me to spot him on the benchpress. This always makes me a little self-conscious because I sweat like crazy at the gym and I'm always afraid I’m going to drip sweat in someone’s face...anyways... This guy told me his goal was five reps. He sat down, got situated and did two reps no problem, but then I had to do the last three for him because he was tapped. Now, how silly would it have been had he jumped up and celebrated that he was so strong he just knocked out five reps? He didn't do that on his own. He did it on borrowed strength. I think that's a humbling picture of the Christian life.
Fundamental to a Biblical understanding of Godly strength is the belief that it’s borrowed. Human weakness is a stage from which God desires to display His infinite power. Christians aren’t called to look down into their own hearts and find the strength to go forward. We're called to look up to God who is infinite in power and promises us His presence.
So the truth is, God will often give His kids more than they can handle. The good news is, God will never give us more than HE can handle. He is with us. He empowers us. He holds us up. He strengthens us. The question is, will you look to Him today?