Lie: God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle

The events of the last eight months of my life have been challenging, to say the least. Within a matter of 4 weeks, my grandmother and my mother both passed away. I have experienced grief like never before. An amazing support group has surrounded me during this difficult time.

Lie: God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle

People have often tried to comfort me with their words. They mean well, I’m sure. However, there are a few things that you should never say when someone is grieving a loss.

  • “There’s a new angel in heaven now.” Not one time in scripture is there evidence of people becoming angels. There are a few examples of angels having human-like qualities, but when people die, they do not become angels.
  • “I know exactly how you feel.” Impossible. You may have experienced similar losses – even worse losses, but you can never know exactly how someone feels. Since you cannot possibly know exactly how someone feels, please don’t ever say that.
  • “Time heals all wounds.” While this one actually has some truth within the cliché, I still would not say this to anyone who is going through a difficult time. When grieving, each day passes so slowly. The idea that time heals really offers very little comfort.
  • And here is the doozie: ”God will never give you more than you can handle.” I’d better step up on my soapbox and start a new paragraph for this one.

Did you know the Bible never says that God will not give you more than you can handle? In fact, the Bible repeatedly says exactly the opposite. We can assume that this cliché is a misrepresentation 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.” 

“He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” is not the same as “He will not give you more than you can handle.”

Woven throughout scripture is the idea that God receives more glory when we are pushed beyond our limits of what we think we can “handle.” His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God wants to use weak and willing vessels to portray His might.

A stuttering man frees the slaves in Egypt. (Moses)

A man who has never seen rain builds an ark and sustains the human race. (Noah)

A shepherd boy slays a giant. (David)

A prostitute has a hand in conquering the Promised Land. (Rahab)

A carpenter’s son, born in a barn, is the Savior of the world. (Jesus)

An accomplice to murder transforms into the greatest missionary. (Paul)

When God gives us more than we can handle, people look past us and see the God who is sustaining us. This is one of the most effective tactics that God uses to draw people to Himself.

Please don’t say these things to grieving loved ones about their loss. Typically people who offer these grief clichés are intending to demonstrate comfort and support. Erin Linn, who has written children’s books about grief, says, “Clichés are a manifestation of our innate inability to deal with a grieving person.”

So this soapbox begs the question, “What can we say to someone who is struggling with what God has allowed to happen?”

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. I am so sorry.
  2. Is there anything that I can do?
  3. I am praying for you and your family during this difficult time.
  4. I cannot imagine exactly how you are feeling, but if you would like to talk about it, then I am here.

Sometimes it is better to not say anything at all. This is the ministry of presence – just sitting with someone in his or her greatest time of need. If we must talk, then let’s attempt to offer helpful, theologically sound comfort as we speak. God has orchestrated his perfect plan, which includes the Christian community surrounding each other in times of need.

Let’s make the most of the opportunities that God gives us to comfort others.

 

*Photo credit: eflon

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The founder of 127 Worldwide 127 Worldwide (James 1:27), Sara Beth has been working for mission organizations for 12 years. She has spent the majority of that time mobilizing volunteers on short-term mission projects. Through networks in the international missions and non-profit sectors, she has connected with international ministry leaders and missionaries who desperately need a voice in influential circles in order to create awareness and promote change. Meeting this objective is the primary purpose of 127 Worldwide. Sara Beth loves to travel, read, and write in what little spare time she finds. She is also not ashamed to admit that she has quite the international collection of toiletries, Starbucks mugs, and office supplies. Sara Beth currently lives in Smyrna, TN.

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  • Jana Neufeld

    Amen, sister. Good words.

    • Sara Beth

      Thanks, Jana – I am so glad that we have reconnected!

  • Cari

    Can I just say. “Amen!!!”  and “Thank you!”  You are exactly right!!!

    • Sara Beth

      Thanks, Cuz!!

  • Jen

    “When God gives us more than we can handle, people look past us and see the God who is sustaining us.” So true! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Sara Beth

      I thought you would like my desire for people to give theologically sound words of comfort.  Ha ha.

  • Kim

    Or my favorites, “Something good will come out of this,” or “God has a purpose.” 

    • Sara Beth

      These would both fall into the category of true statements that aren’t always helpful.  

  • Shadowlight89

    You listen but do not hear. You look but do not see. The statement “God does not give us more than we can handle” is true. It’s not to show his might but allow us to learn and endure and call upon him for help and strength. Are you sure YOU are not misinterpreting the bible verse? How can you be so sure? You claim you know God and his will. So please enlighten me. Everyone focuses on God. What he has done and what he has not done. You’re quick to deny his hand during the good times and just as quick to condemn him for the bad times. Always forgetting the Devil. In other words you are blind AND a fool and a “false prophet”.

    • Amy Schaffner

       I’m pretty sure that she just said she lost her mother and her
      grandmother, if I understood this CORRECTLY, it’s possible that calling
      her blind and a fool could be a little inappropriate at this time.  Or
      possibly at any time.  This is never said FLAT OUT in the Bible, so it
      is an arguable matter. (Romans 14-15)

      • Shadowlight89

        Tch. The bible was never meant to be taken literally. I endured hardships for the past 16 years and still enduring. I never let my faith waiver. Just like Peter (Matthew 14:29). Are you going to walk in water or sit in the boat too afraid to take the leap? Many of the nonbelivers are cowards unwilling to believe something bigger and more than themselves.

    • sbfentress1

      Wow. I definitely did not intend to ruffle your feathers.  I was merely stating I believe some people take the verse about God allowing us to be tempted and use that as a blanket cliche to share with hurting people.  I can’t find “God does not give us more than we can handle in the Bible.”  If you believe the Bible is not literal – then I am not sure how much farther we can take this discussion.  However, I am MORE THAN HAPPY to continue dialoguing about this.  I have definitely been misrepresented in the above and below statements.  I am not blind.  I am not a fool.  I am not quick to deny His hand or condemn Him.  These difficult months have taught me so much about my relationship with CHRIST.  I also am not one to cower in difficult times.  I am not a “boat sitter” and I never said that this grief has caused my faith to waiver.  If you would like to continue the discussion – feel free to email me at sbfentress1@yahoo.com.

    • IfyoucanthandleitGodcan

      Hey, please check your tongue and your heart. Why do your words sound intentionally harmful? I may be misunderstanding you, but are you speaking out of anger or out of love? Have you tried to understand what she/he is trying to express and weighed it thoughtfully and delicately? Has she really said anything negative about God? True, everything good comes from God. But not everything that WE see as bad actually comes from Satan. God is sovereign over everything and the highs AND the lows in life can be used to bring us closer to God. Depending on how we react, these difficult times in our lives can be used to increase our dependence on God. 

  • Regan

    Philippians 4:13

  • Arw

    I just have to say tonight in search of this same verse (1Cor 10:13) I was shocked to see this MUST be the verse paraphrased as “God will never give you more than u can bare” yet it’s not even close to what this verse is saying! Oh people we must inform all those we know because people are being misled!
    Now it is true we can handle all THROUGH (meaning not ourselves) through the God that strengthens us.
    You are true when you say what we bare is so people can look past us to see him. For its all for His Glory. May God Bless

  • Me

    People should never say God will not put us through more then we can handle! That makes people feel wrong in some way when they feel like they cant do it, and that is wrong and unbiblical. 2 Cor 1:8-9, situations can surely be more then we can handle just as they were for Paul. But when it happens we are to rely on God and He is faithful to see us through, but it is not wrong to say that God will allow us to go through despair. So I agree that God will put us through more than we can humanly handle, but He is there and His strength will be what sees us through all things.

  • http://www.lorraineyeung.com Lorraine Yeung

    So true Sarabath, thanks for clearing up another Christian myth. Perhaps a couple of follow ups could include:
    - Godliness is next to cleanliness
    - God helps those who can help themselves

    Lorraine :)