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November 13, 2017

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

“It’s all too much,” I cried into my coffee. “I can’t do it. I’m not enough.”

Sitting in that quiet coffee shop, reality hit with force.

Every day is filled with one reminder after another that I am not sufficient. I am not enough for my small group girls; I am not enough for my best friend; I am not enough for my parents; I am not enough for counseling others; I am not enough to teach the Word of God; I am not enough for the church; I am not enough to write helpfully; I am not enough to consider marriage or parenting or anything else God calls me to.

I am not enough.

Do you feel it too?

Do you feel strained by the seemingly endless litany of tasks before you, the weight of burdens in community and ministry, and the demand to do and be it all without cracking under pressure?

During those times I’ve heard well-meaning people say, “Yeah, what you’re going through is hard, but God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

The problem with that and Mother Theresa’s famous quote—“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much”—is that it’s not Scriptural.

And anything meant to be a comfort becomes a confine when it isn’t based on Scripture.

What if Scripture actually says God intentionally gives us more than we can handle?

Too Much For Us to Handle

Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a:

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. (emphasis mine)

Does that sound like God gave Paul something he could handle? No—he was so utterly burdened beyond his strength that he despaired of life itself. Everything was so weighty and burdensome it felt like death.

We can relate, can’t we?

The burdens seem too great. The needs too many. The hurts too deep. The responsibilities too endless. The journey too painful. The heartache too heavy.

Our weakness, limitations, and frailties glare at us with paralyzing precision. And Paul says that’s the point.

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9b)

God the Father, committed to purifying us by fire, turns up the heat in our lives and gives us more than we can handle so we look outside ourselves for the answer. The circumstances that burden us beyond our own strength are designed to expose the futility of self-reliance and drive us to depend on the Lord.

He places us in situations where he is our only hope so we join with Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:16 and ask, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The answer? Only God’s grace through Jesus (12:9).

Human Insufficiency

The entire Bible proves this point. Scripture is filled with situation after situation of people unable to handle what God, in his mercy, allowed them to experience.

  • Noah built an ark for a catastrophic flood, though they had never seen rain.
  • Abraham heard God’s call into the unknown.
  • Laban cheated Jacob.
  • Joseph’s brothers sold him, and he was imprison
  • Hannah trusted God through her barrenness.
  • Joshua took command of the children of Israel.
  • David ran from Saul and, later, his own son.
  • Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the temple.
  • God commanded the prophets to speak to people who would never listen.
  • God commanded Ezekiel not to cry after his wife died.
  • A virgin birthed the Messiah.
  • A Nazarene carpenter called fishermen and tax collectors to leave everything familiar to follow him.
  • The lame, Jesus commanded to walk, though their legs had never worked.
  • God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh (and shipwrecks, floggings, abuse, imprisonment, and persecution).

That’s barely scratching the surface of Scripture’s record of how God’s servants were ill-equipped to carry the load he gave them.

But let’s zoom in on Jesus and his disciples for a moment. He was constantly placing them in situations with tasks and commands they couldn’t manage to expose their weakness and cause them to run back to him for clarity and help.

Has Jesus changed his mode of operation?

Christ’s Sufficient Strength

No, he continues to work the same way in us, bringing to light our weaknesses so his sufficiency shines like the satisfying treasure it is.

When we’re crying into our coffee and feeling burdened beyond our strength, we recognize we need a Savior, from sin and from all the human weaknesses that accompany it. That’s when we feel what’s true all the time: We are helpless on our own. We need a strength beyond our own to rescue us. If we were enough, there would be no reason for Jesus.

That’s what I need to hear when life feels so heavy I’m convinced I will break apart at the seams. I don’t need someone offering a warm platitude to help my strength grow. I need someone reminding me this debilitating weakness is intentionally purposed to lead my weak soul to the One who raised the dead.

The empty grave of Jesus proves his sufficiency to bear our burdens and carry our sorrows. We must take our hearts there, gluing our eyes to the gospel and baking our minds in the truth of our sin-defeating Hero who alone is equipped to handle all he gives us. We command our eyes to behold the resurrected King, knowing that, while our circumstances may never be resurrected, he is working to resurrect us through them.

His scars prove he can handle anything—he endured the suffering of the cross for our sin. His wounds whisper safety for us—for with his wounds we are healed. His death gives life. His victory brings deliverance.

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. (2 Corinthians 1:10)

So, in the face of overwhelming inadequacy, we set our hope on the One who gives us more than we can handle. We look to the One who handled it all, who has declared in his all-sufficient strength, “It is finished.”

Sophie McDonald

Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and nanny. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.