On Sunday, our worship leader, Dave, commented that the Christian cliché, “God will never give us more than we can handle,” is very common place and popularly accepted. It is found on posters, bumper stickers, and coffee cups. Unfortunately, as Dave also pointed out, it is completely false.
The popular sentiment is based on a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13.
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.
On the one hand, the verse says that we will not face any temptation that we cannot handle. On the other hand, the verse also says that God will provide a way of escape, which means that some challenges will be beyond our ability, and rather than stand and fight, we need to escape from them.
In 2 Corinthians 1:8–9, Paul comments that God allowed him to reach the point of helplessness so that he might learn to rely on God.
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.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes his experience with his thorn in the flesh. His experience was so difficult that he begged God on three occasions to remove it. However, God repeatedly denied Paul’s request. Instead, God gave Paul an extra measure of grace so that he might learn to depend on God’s strength rather than his own.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
A cursory reading of the story of Gideon and his 300 men facing the Midianite army of 135,000 shows that, yes, God does allow us to face insurmountable obstacles so that we learn to trust him. If we can handle it, we will take the credit every time.
The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2)
If we never faced a battle, challenge, enemy, problem, person, situation, or obstacle that we could not handle, if God never gave us more than we could handle, then we wouldn’t need God. All we would need is us. We would receive the credit and take the glory.
Let’s face the facts. That is not God’s plan for any of us. We are not self-sufficient for every challenge. We are deluded if we think otherwise.
God often places in situations where we are in over our heads because he wants to teach us to depend on him. Only then do we realize that his grace is sufficient. Only then do we give him the glory.
Dave, thanks for sharing your insights and prompting my thinking.