God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

God won’t give you more than you can handle.
I’ve heard it said to me.  Heck, I know early on in my ministry I would utter this line to someone facing some significant crisis.  Not knowing what else to say, it simply came out: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  If you “google” the saying, many pretty depictions of the saying come up with nature scenes in the background.  Here’s the funny thing: Jesus never once said that. 
I know.  I’ve had more than I can handle more than once.  Losing both parents at different moments, leaving the priesthood, moving back home to live with my dad, interviewing at congregations and discerning where God might be calling us, being a distance away from our families, ministering on multiple levels to parishioners in very different places while still trying to be a good and loving husband and father.   I think of the days, the worships, the sermons where nothing seems to go right and it all seems too much to bear.  And yet it was in my church families where I saw strength, beauty and grace.  Both you and I have had more than we can handle more than once.  God gave you and I strength and God gave us people who came alongside us to bear our burdens when we couldn’t.
You see “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is idolatry of self-sufficiency hiding behind some nice spiritual sounding words.  The truth is people are dealing with more than they can handle all over the world.  That’s why we need God and why God has given us each other.   As pastor I see and hear about the burdens many of you are carrying everyday…grief, working long hours in an endless job, loveless marriages, challenges with raising children and grandchildren.  I think of all of our farmers who face burdens I will never experience in my life.  And the temptation for all of us, even myself, is to say “Hang in there…God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  My best response as a street theologian is to simply say: “BS.”   
Throughout the Bible we hear about characters who were given seemingly impossible tasks: Moses having to face Pharaoh and freeing thousands, young David facing “the Giant,” Daniel being surrounded by lions in the pit, Jesus facing a mob, being betrayed, denied and eventually encountering a horrific death.  I wonder what Jesus would have done or thought if Peter said to him “Lord, don’t worry, God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  I bet words like “Get behind me, Satan” or some tongue lashing for “the rock” might have been given.  Do you think of any of these so-called “heroes” of the Bible were in the middle of such extremely stressful circumstances and thought “Well, God won’t give me more than I can handle so I’ll just keep hanging on?”  Absolutely not.  Maybe the point was to show something possible could come of an impossible situation.  Maybe the point or the truth is that God doesn’t give us anything that God can’t handle.  Or maybe the point was that none of these people did it alone.  Their work was accomplished through a community of believers.  The resurrection was experienced by the women at the tomb, by the apostles locked in the upper room, by the first believers hearing the stories of Jesus’ comeback defeating death.  It happened when they were together.  
God uses us and places us in our community of faith so that we can experience the gift of community.  Whether you are single, married with kids, widowed, empty-nester or what-have-you, one of the greatest blessings of belonging to a church is experiencing the “richness” of relationships and “doing life” together.  Would it be easier to go it alone?  Sure, sometimes.  But then we miss out on what God does for us through others.  I think for the most part we can recognize the need for God in our lives but we often fail or forget how much we need each other to grow in the faith.   
Since I have come to BLC I have observed the tendency for people to quite casually miss our worship time together.  Other “things” get in the way.  I will never stop reaching out to every single parishioner reminding them how important it is to be in prayer together.  When we don’t bring our children to worship, what does that communicate to them?  When we are only present once a month or some even less, how can we truly build the Body of Christ here in Barneveld?  This is not a guilt piece.  I realize how busy everyone’s lives are.  And we all can claim life is really hard.  But we are trying to build something quite beautiful here.  We are a church family.  And when family is not present, we are lacking.  It always strikes me that when things are good, we don’t need God.  But as soon as something goes wrong- a bad diagnosis, an unexpected death, a challenging time, etc. the first question often raised is “where is God?”   
We cannot experience community alone. 

Can we talk to God in the woods or in nature?  Sure.  But we can’t build or know the sense of community when we are alone.  Worship connects us to God through each other.  It’s a beautiful thing.  In fact, King David thought so much of communal worship he penned Psalm 68:6 which says “God sets the lonely in families.”  Our Christian faith and identity is shaped by our corporate worship and fellowship as a family.  When we feel the burdens of life, we can know and realize we are never alone.  We have our God who comes to us in the faces of the people who sit in the pews along side of us.  
In the classic song “Message in a Bottle” by The Police, Sting’s lyrics brilliantly illustrate how we can experience loneliness even when we are surrounded by people who have the same fears and same insecurities we have: Walked out this morning/Don’t believe what I saw/ A hundred billion bottles/ Washed up on the shore/ Seems I’m not alone at being alone/ A hundred billion castaways/ Looking for a home.  
God won’t give you more than you can handle.  Hogwash.  God gives us each other.  Remember the gift of being part of something greater than yourself.  Come pray, sing, eat, worship, grow.  There’s a reason we now say: Believe It, Live It, Come to It.  The temptation in summer is to skip out on worship.  Don’t.  If you travel, go to a new and different church.  Giving one hour back to God is pretty simple in the grand scheme of things.  And when you come, you might just be surprised by who you find sitting in the pew next to you.  We are church and family together. 

One Response to “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”

  1. Diane says:

    This is why Sunday is my favorite Day!
    Thank you!

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