You’ve heard it before. You’ve been told it when you were going through something difficult, and you have probably said it to someone else. “God won’t give you more than what you can handle.”
Is this true?
Let’s just get straight to the answer. No…it’s not true. If it were true, we wouldn’t even need God, then, would we?
It’s a common (and well-meaning) misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “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.” The misinterpretation is easy to see, since it is “partially” there, but let’s look a little deeper into why understanding the whole context is important.
All of us have a built in propensity to look to self for strength. For me, I have a somewhat large capacity for life’s responsibilities. I can balance many things, I like working with pressure and deadlines, and I always seem to find a way to get things done. But when more and more pressure looms, my tendency is to dig in for more strength, work a little extra harder or longer, stay up later, read another book, or learn another skill. None of that is bad in itself, but when that’s my go-to and my solution, I’m simply looking to Jobey. After all, if I believe that God won’t give Jobey any more than what Jobey can handle, then that means I just need to put my head down, put my nose to the grindstone, and dig in a bit more. After all, I want to wrongfully “make my Father proud” and live up to what I perceive are His expectations for me. But I do this all by looking to my own strength, and when that happens, guess who gets the glory and credit? That’s right…this guy.
The fact of the matter is that God always gives us more than we can handle. He does this in order to draw us to Him, not draw us into more of ourselves. He wants us to surrender so we can find strength, support, and power from Him. It’s only when we have been taken far beyond our capacity and finally admit defeat in ourselves that we find real victory through Christ, and then He gets the credit and glory, which means more real fruit in and through your life. More lives being touched, more people seeing who Jesus really is, not more people seeing who you are.
Consider this from Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8–10:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
Did you catch that first sentence? Paul and Co. were so in over their heads, beyond what they could handle, that they even “despaired of life itself.” What does that mean? It means that they wanted to just die! Paul…the APOSTLE Paul, became so desperate he would rather have just died. His response was not to just “dig a little deeper” into his own strength, thinking that he could handle it, rather he says that they knew there was only one place to go, and that was to rely on God. It seems that he even believed that they were in fact actually going to die (which would REALLY have been beyond more than what he could handle!), but that he believed that even if that were to happen, God could raise him from the dead.
All this to say, don’t believe for a second that whatever you are going through, or will be going through, that God expects you to “have enough” within yourself to get through it. You don’t have what it takes. But you have a Savior who had what it takes to get through this painful life perfectly, and He has give you a Helper, the Holy Spirit, that will “guide you into all truth,” reminding you that God’s “grace is sufficient for you.” The Holy Spirit can show you “the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” But that way of escape won’t be found by digging into your own abilities, personality, or training, but rather by having your feet set upon the Rock and trusting in His strength and ability to hold you and sustain you.
When you are in over your head, rejoice in it, because God is giving you a great opportunity to see more of Him in your life. Remember, God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” and you can (and should) cast “all of your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7).