This post last updated on November 12th, 2021
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
You’ve no doubt heard this from a well-meaning friend when you’ve been down. I’ve probably said it more than I’d like to admit, and I know it’s been said to me.
Except, it’s just not Biblical.
God Will Not Give You More Than You Can Handle
I’m almost certain that this saying originally came from well meaning Christians misapplying 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.”
Except no where in that verse is Paul saying that you or I can or would overcome every adversity, hardship, misfortune or challenge that comes our way. And he isn’t saying that God will not give you more than you can handle.
Paul isn’t even addressing hardships. He’s talking about temptation.
Temptation vs. Suffering
Paul is saying that we don’t have to give in to temptation. And, there is a massive difference between that and the suffering we usually address with the statement “God will not give you more than you can handle.”
It is true that you and I will experience suffering because of our sin. I know what it feels like to give in to temptation and to suffer the guilt and the regret.
The difference between suffering and temptation, however, is that with temptation, scripture tells us to run from it, expose it, confess it and to abstain from it. That takes action, it’s a choice we’re given to embrace sin and experience it, or not to.
But you and I don’t always have a say in the suffering we experience. True, our suffering may be due to choices we’ve made or lifestyles we’ve chosen to live, but really, who is going to intentionally invite suffering into their life?
You can prove that with your life experiences, and so can I. There are all kinds of crap that hits us and those we love that makes us scratch our heads in wonder, distraught over how we or our loved ones will bear it all.
Sickness, accidents, victims of senseless crime, sudden death… these are the things that can bring the walls of life crashing down. And when they do, how could we look someone in the eye and tell them, “It’s ok, God will not give you more than you can handle”?
That junk happens and when it does, life can become unmanageable, and quite often, we cannot handle it.
Jesus on Hardship
We’re told in the Gospels about the extreme adversity that Jesus faced. Like when He told His disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;” (Matthew 26:38).
Matthew goes on to point out that Jesus prayed 3 times for a way out saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.“
It stands to reason that by the example of Christ, this life will sometimes inundate us with suffering.
And when it’s crashing down like a tsunami wave on top of those around us, when our loved ones feel that God is the farthest thing away from their current problems, we’d minister much more to their needs if we walk through the storm with them rather than telling them to “buck up, God will not give you more than you can handle!”
And that’s how you and I can become the heart, the hands, and the feet of Jesus to others.
Paul in Asia
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about his travels to Asia where things apparently went real bad. It appears that Paul and his companions had endured so much suffering that they were convinced they were as good as dead.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul doesn’t elaborate on the details of his experience, but here’s what we have, and I’ll add some emphasis:
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.1 Corinthians 1:8-11
So Paul and his companions suffered to some great extreme, including a near death experience. Still, it doesn’t take long to see the purpose of that suffering: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
And, when you back up to the verses Paul penned just before those words of catastrophe, his encouragement to the Corinthians is all about God’s comfort. And in Paul’s example, the comfort comes in the middle of the crisis and the pain. (1 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Comfort in the Storms of Life
Will God give you more than you can handle?
Of course, and you’ve probably experienced that to some extent. But you’re in good company because not only did Jesus suffer, but His disciples, prophets, and even His church went through it.
And as Paul writes later in his second letter to the Corinthian church, God’s grace is present and enough for every agonizing thing that comes our way.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9-10
The Promises of God
What do you do once you realize that God will in fact give you, or at least allow more than you can handle, or when you’re in the midst of the overwhelming life storms?
You pray and search His word and then cling to His promises. Find the things that stay with you in the middle of the storm.
Here are just a few to get you started. These would be good to put into your armory:
- “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1 NASB)
- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
- “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV)
- “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.” (Psalm 20:1 NIV)
- “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8 ESV)