March 15, 2017

More Than You Can Handle (part 1)

I heard a phrase this weekend that I have heard countless times before, and it always gives me pause.  "God won't give you more than you can handle."  Now, I understand what mature Christians (even preachers) mean when they say this.  The saying echoes the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Furthermore, Ephesians 6:13 states, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."  So yes, if we are truly believers in Christ, and if we are in close fellowship with God, and if we have a mature and accurate grasp of what the Bible teaches us, and if we know how to apply the scriptures in a practical way to our everyday lives, then  we do have His power to lean on, and we can get through any circumstances which come our way.

That's a lot of "ifs" which have to be fulfilled.
The saying, "God won't give you more than you can handle," can be misleading to both non-believers and young (new to the faith) Christians.  The mature Christian understands that fully relying on God is what gets us through tough times; that the strength to overcome is from God, and not of ourselves.  But to someone without a mature understanding of (dare I use the word) theology, this well-intended phrase can do more harm than good.

Our society glorifies people of strong will and great accomplishments: pioneers who blaze new trails into unknown territory.  Society teaches us to rely on no one but ourselves: "If you want a job done right, do it yourself."  The lyrics from an old song sum up the concept very neatly: "I did it my way."  A commercial which ran on TV throughout 2015 had a similar message of out-of-balance self importance in its closing line: "You're gonna want someone like me, but only if you have a brain."  

There is so much focus on self-help, self-esteem, self-worth, etc. that entire multi-billion dollar industries are built upon our self-ward focus.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that these things are inherently bad or evil; they are actually important and desirable attributes, when kept in proper balance.

And THAT is where the message we get from society starts to cause trouble.  The message is one-sided.  


It gets out of balance to the point that we actually believe if we can't handle a situation on our own, we are weak.


And then... along comes a Christian who says, with the best of intentions, "God will never give you more than you can handle."  


An unbeliever, or even a Christian who is new to the faith, is likely to misunderstand that statement. Rather than recognizing well-intended words of encouragement,  they may instead "hear" something like: "If you can't handle this, if you can't handle what God has given you (the God who I just said won't give you anything you can't handle), then you are a weak person who is somehow inferior to the rest of us."  While this is not what was actually said, it might be what is heard. That Christian has just (unwittingly) helped to perpetuate one of society's great and insidious lies.

Tomorrow, we will look at the truth of the matter, as presented in the Bible.

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