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The struggles of life and faith
There is a lie going around that has people afraid and feeling alone. I think it is time to confront the lie. In the last couple of months, at least a dozen people have quoted this lie to me, quite innocently, as they believe it is accurate. The lie — this particular statement usually comes after stories of heart-ache and pain. I have heard about brain cancer, car crashes, a daughter’s suicide, loss of everything due to gambling, business failures, a toddler’s death. Life is hard, too hard.
Have you ever heard the statement: “God will never give you more than you can handle”?
Have you said it yourself?
“God will not give me more burdens than I can handle.” Sometimes the person in my office puts it in the form of a question: “Doesn’t the Bible say that God won’t give me more than I can handle?”
Sometimes I hear this: “I know that God won’t give me more than I can handle; I just wish God didn’t trust me so much.”
Friends, the idea that God gives us troubles or burdens us, because God thinks we can stand up to the trials, is a false and dangerous lie.
First of all, nowhere in the Bible does it say: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
There is a verse in the first chapter of Corinthians that talks about being tempted. It says that we will not be tempted beyond our strength, that the temptations of the world will not overcome us, but that is very different than God giving us burdens and manipulating our lives because God thinks we are strong enough to handle it.
I cannot imagine a God, who would watch a 17-year-old, and say: “Great young man, he will be just fine after both his legs are amputated.”
I cannot imagine a God who would see a strong independent woman, and pronounce the death of both parents, the loss of a job, a brother’s depression and infertility all in the same year.
Cancer is not handed out as a badge to those who can handle it. Dementia is not a reward; depression is not the prize for heroism.
God is not a puppeteer, who pulls strings and makes things happen.
Each person makes choices about their own life. As strange as it may seem, it is because God loves us so much, that we have been given the freedom to make our own choices, and sometimes our choices hurt us — or they hurt others. We are often affected by the choices of others.
Sometimes a person can hear the statement: “God does not give you more than you can handle” and be able to dig deep and find more strength.
They are acutely aware that God is present in each moment, and they lean into the strength of God’s love. But lately I am finding that the despairing who say: “I know that God doesn’t give me more than I can handle, but it’s just too much” usually come to one of two conclusions.
They either decide that they must be a horrible, weak and worthless person, because they just cannot handle what God thinks they can handle, or, they become so frustrated and overwhelmed, that they cannot find a way to believe in a God that would burden them so completely.
The lie leads us to utter despair, or drives us away from the Holy.
Precious children of God, God does not pile on burdens or make life hard for us. Sometimes things just happen, sometimes we make poor choices, mostly I believe, we are a casualty of someone else’s poor choices.
But we are not alone in the struggle. We are led beside still waters, and God is present to restore our souls.
At the moment that tragedy strikes, or life becomes just too hard, God is there with us, in the pain and the fear and the mud of life.
When life gets too hard, when we can’t do it any longer, when daily living becomes too much, when we have nothing left, when we are beyond empty — it is in that moment that the God of love and compassion meets us and sits with us, until we are ready to let the strength of God’s love move us forward.
Can the difficulties of life cause us to recognize our absolute dependence on God? Yes.
However, God is not the one to make our lives difficult. God is in our very breath, giving us strength to move on.
God will soothe our pride, calm our fear, make clear our vision. Spirit God, patient God, loving God; the God of Jesus the Christ, is our shepherd and our guide.
The promises of God’s abiding love is ours forever.
—The Reverend Hilde J. Seal is a Minister at Knox United Church