Life can be tough, and when we experience devastation or difficult blows, well-meaning loved ones often try to comfort us.
With sympathetic eyes and a warm hug, they’ll offer a simple, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” In essence, they’re trying to say, “You’re strong. You’ve got this!” And it feels good to hear, doesn’t it? God loves us, after all. He’s our Father, our protector, our creator. It makes us feel better to imagine there’s a set, God-ordained limit to our suffering, to believe that when God knows we’ve reached the pinnacle of what we can endure, He’ll make it disappear.
But Scripture tells us something far different. From Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the woes of poor Job to the persecution of the prophets and the men and women in Christ’s early church, we know suffering is far more of a rule than an exception. Only by drawing close to God and leaning on Him do God’s people ever see relief.
Here, we take a look at why God will give you more than you can handle—and why this is a tremendously good thing.
Does the Bible Tell Us God Won’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle?
When people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” they are usually trying to recall the apostle Paul’s words of encouragement in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV). As Paul writes to the early church in Corinth, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.”
It sounds quite similar, doesn’t it? But there’s a key difference between God promising He won’t let you be “tempted” beyond what you can bear and believing God won’t let you “experience” more than you can bear.
We are never promised we won’t experience difficulty in life. In fact, we are promised just the opposite.
Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We will have trouble. We will suffer.
Suffering is part of the world, and earth is not meant to be heaven. Our bodies wither, decay, and die during our time on earth. We endure and experience hardship, poverty, disease, calamity, and other difficulties. God will be with us in the center of this, but the fact remains that suffering is a part of life.
Are You Being Tempted Or Tested?
But while suffering is one thing, temptation is quite another.
Temptation is an intentional, devious, deceptive, and malicious act on the part of the devil. It’s when the devil tries to undermine our faith and lure us to stray from God’s path.
Our reaction to temptation—whether we bend or resist—is what is important. Temptation itself is not the sin. Rather, when we succumb to temptation, that is sin.
We know that the devil can and does tempt people. He tried—and failed—multiple times to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He still tries today to tempt God’s people.
God, however, never tempts us. Only the devil tempts us.
God is good. His way is the only right, true way—the way of goodness and holiness. Yet God does test us, which is far different from temptation. He gives us circumstances we must overcome or opportunities we must recognize to help us walk our path better or to draw closer to Him. For instance, He tested Abraham, asking Him to sacrifice His beloved son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Abraham passed the test.
The goal of temptation is sin, but the goal of God’s testing is to create or hone a more faithful child of God. God does not want us to sin. He wants us to stand strong in the face of temptation.
But while God does not ever want us to cave to temptation, God will allow us to be tempted. Perhaps the learning and character we develop in times of temptation, or by resisting temptation, is ultimately good; this we don’t know.
When we are tempted, we can take heart by knowing God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, and He will provide a way out for us.
What to Do When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle
But there are times when it feels as if life is one big difficulty after another. We experience painful, debilitating disease, or lose people close to us. We might feel we are in a season of oppression or loss, and if one more wave knocks us to our knees, we’ll keel over and succumb to the waters of death.
That is when it’s helpful to know we are never meant to handle anything, even “good days,” on our own.
God designed us to live in relationship with Him. From the moment He created the first man and breathed life into him, we were in perfect, beautiful closeness with our Creator.
But sin created a barrier. When we walk in perfect alignment with the Lord, all is smooth and well. As Proverbs 3:5-8 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
But often, we choose to walk our own way. Pride—also a sin—gets in the way. That’s when we must turn to God.
Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
And in John 14:6, Jesus tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
When we rely on Jesus, we receive rest, peace, mercy. The apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to the early church in Philippi, as he writes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
When we feel we are carrying more than we can handle, we are to turn it over to God. God gives us rest, peace, hope, and salvation through His Son, Jesus.
How Does God Want Us to Handle Trials?
Our model, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, showed us exactly how to deal with trials. When He was sad, Jesus cried out to God. He prayed, He wept, He even begged God to take “His cup” away (Luke 22:42). And ultimately, He accepted what God chose to do.
As Psalm 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, His reaction provides another example of how God wants us to handle our trials: Jesus used the tool God gave us all, the Bible, to counter the devil.
As Psalm 119:105 reminds us, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” In hardship, it is clear: we are to turn to God, seek God, follow God, and obey God.
How God’s Grace Gets Us through Any Circumstance
However, we are still only human. Sometimes, suffering gets the best of us. We can no longer endure its crippling blows and we fall flat.
Other times, instead of standing strong against temptation, we surrender. We take the earthly path instead of the heavenly, eternal path.
But God is a merciful, compassionate Father who loves us and offers us grace. He sent His Son to show us the way and pay the price for our sins. And when we, who believe in Jesus as our Savior, do wrong and genuinely repent of our wrongdoing, God forgives us and welcomes us back into His flock.
We don’t deserve this grace. God gives it freely out of His abundant, extravagant, never-ending well of mercy and compassion.
All we must do is accept this gift and trust God will handle everything.
God will indeed give you more than you can handle. The point is to remember you are not God. Instead, you are to turn to the only One who can triumph: The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End—Father God.
A Prayer When You Don’t Feel Like You Can Handle Everything
In times when life seems overwhelming and the darkness feels like it is pressing tight against your neck, remember that you are not meant to handle any of this on your own. You are meant to handle it hand in hand with God. Jesus offers in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
And the apostle Paul encourages in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Here, then, is a prayer for when you don’t feel like you can handle everything:
Lord, I am weak. I beg you: Help my faith. Help me to lay my burdens at Your feet. Help me to remember this time on earth is temporary. And my citizenship is in Heaven with You. On my own I am nothing, but with You I can do all things, endure all things, have peace in all things. Allow me to walk with You now and forever and accept Your perfect will. Amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more at http://jessicabrodie.com.