Unlocking the Myth: God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle

It all started like a perfectly normal day, and then catastrophe struck. My daughter needed some medicine. So as I rustled around in the cabinet, I didn't see the brand new bottle of dark red fingernail polish sitting near the edge in the corner of the freshly painted white cabinet. As I moved the box of band-aids out of the way, I knocked it off the shelf and, in slow motion, it fell to the new tile floor, shattering into the tiniest shards of glass you've ever seen. My foot was sliced with little razor blade cuts and deep burgundy was thrown all over me, the floor and the face of the fresh white paint. It looked like a crime scene...

Relax... it's just fingernail polish {mostly}

Relax... it's just fingernail polish {mostly}

Haleigh ran to get the paper towels for me since I was essentially stuck in place with crimson polish dripping from my left foot. I spent the better part of two hours, and most of a bottle of acetone, painfully removing paint from my raw skin and from the tile. At one point I took a break from the scrubbing and the pain to look at my violet stained foot and my toes still mostly glued together and glanced up. It was then that I saw my pretty, new, knee length Easter dress looking down at me mockingly. Most people worry about looking really pale in their new dresses this time of year. I was now worried like looking like Violet from Willy Wonka.

With a new resolve to find my pale skin under the burgundy, I went back to scrubbing... Eventually I was able to get most of the polish off and hoped the rest would fade over the next few days. I hopped into the shower to rinse the acetone off the entirety of my left leg and right hand, only to discover that acetone residue mixed with water makes for a slippery grip. As I grabbed for the bottle of body wash, it slipped right through my hands and landed on my right toe. I yelped in pain and then mistakenly rubbed my left eye with my chemical coated hand, causing yet another wave of searing pain to course through me. As I somehow managed to dry my hair without electrocuting myself, I rethought dinner plans in desperation to avoid using a very sharp knife to cut up vegetables. 

Some days, you just want to hide in the closet with a roll of cookie dough, a glass {shatter-proof of course} of wine, and just cry until it's finally late enough in the day you can call it quits and climb oh-so-carefully into bed. Some days you just can't win. Nothing goes right and you know anything you try will end in utter disaster.

Though hopefully they are few and far between, we all have days like this. But there are certainly times when your days are full of frustration and everything going wrong, but lacking the comedic quality of fingernail polish all over your body. What about when your pain isn't from little cuts and polish remover or hurt feelings about your pretty new cabinet being ruined, but is much deeper? What happens when your awful afternoon stretches into days, weeks, months or even years? 

Life is sometimes incredibly hard. It can be overwhelming and leave us feeling like we can barely get our heads above water for air. So often we keep our pain inside, embarrassed or intimidated or ashamed to reach out and confide in anyone else about how we actually feel. We have those days that we know what is expected of us is so far away from what we actually feel. We know everyone is expecting a smile, a joke, an encouragement... so we give it, but nothing inside of us feels it. We just feel like a phony, a hypocrite even. I've felt exactly like that a couple different times in my life and am in the middle of one of those phases right now. The first time came with our years of infertility and miscarriage. It came when I was facing an unknown future and was so afraid of losing the dream we had held so dear. I was afraid of letting my husband down, letting my parents down, letting myself down. The second time has come through depression that has knocked my feet right out from under me. It was slowly building through a handful of difficult circumstances. Each one of them bearable, but when they all piled up just right, it is too much for me to stand under. 

So today, I want us to look at our hardships in a little different light. I want to talk about a widely known and accepted saying. "God will never give you more than you can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." (- Mother Teresa) I want us to unlock the myth, because sometimes God does, in fact, give us more than we, alone, can handle.

This phrase is one that seems to offer hope on the surface, but really does nothing to draw us closer to God or to helping to lighten the burdens we find ourselves bearing. It's an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 that says "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can endure it." Paul was writing about how temptation should never make us feel powerless, because God won't allow us to be tempted by something we couldn't resist. This verse is wonderful, and empowering, and full of confidence... but it deals strictly with temptations; the choosing between right and wrong. Everything gets murky when you start broadening the application way beyond what it was intended for. Paul was certainly not claiming that nothing hard will ever happen to us. He was certainly not saying we will not ever find ourselves overwhelmed by burdens to the point where it feels like just too much. In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:8 says "Brothers and sisters, we don't want you to be unaware of the troubles that we went through in Asia. We were weighed down with a load of suffering that was so far beyond our strength that we were afraid we might not survive."  Jesus even told us "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

A few months ago I sat across the kitchen table from my husband and admitted that I wasn't okay. "I think I need to talk to somebody or see my doctor or something. I'm not handling things very well right now. It's too much. I feel like I'm drowning. I can hardly catch my breath. I'm not sleeping at all and my shoulders feel so weighed down. I'm angry over the smallest things. I can't fix any of this. I can't pep-talk my way out of this one. I don't know what depression feels like, but I think this might be it." I was afraid to tell him how weak I was. Afraid he would laugh, afraid I would let him down. It was all in my head. I was afraid to say it out-loud and make it real. I had spent weeks, months, trying to talk myself out of how overwhelmed I was feeling. I was letting myself down.

A month or so later I had my annual girly appointment with my doctor who is also a friend of ours. As I sat across from him in his office he looked over and said "I've noticed you haven't been your regularly cheerful self as much lately. What's going on?" And the floodgates opened. As the tears streamed down my face and I cried the ugly cry, I told him everything. I hadn't intended to say anything to him that day about being so burdened, but when he asked with a look of genuine compassion in his eyes, I knew this was my chance to talk to someone who knew how to help me. The student doctor shadowing him that day is probably looking over all the other options for areas to specialize in right now. I'm sure I terrified him from ever going into a women's practice. But as we talked, my doctor said, "There are people that just get the blues or have bad days, but you've got the real thing. You have too many heavy things you're dealing with on top of some really heavy medicines you've been on for chronic health issues. All of that is just too much and can certainly change your brain chemistry. You have depression. But I can help."

Depression... but there is help

That word brought a whole fresh set of tears. Me... the optimist... the expert of finding silver linings... the encourager... is depressed.

It took a couple weeks for me to really wrap my mind around that. Several vulnerable and uncomfortably honest conversations with concerned friends. A sweet husband who has been my rock and been patient with me as I cry inexplicable tears. The medicine is helping. The conversations are helping. I'm not out of the pit yet, but I'm starting to once again see a silver lining. In the depths of this pit, I'm learning something new. An awakening is happening in my soul. 

God does allow you to have more burdens than you can handle. But he doesn't leave you helpless. When we say he won't give us more than we can handle, the focus is all wrong. It remains on us and our capabilities rather than being shifted onto the One who can, in fact, bear all life's burdens. When we reach the end of ourselves, when we can no longer hold up under the weight, when we find our limitations, we find Him. Being totally reliant on Him and the provisions He provides is an empowering, peaceful and rewarding thing that I would not be experiencing if I wasn't being taken to my breaking point. His provisions show up in the most wonderful of ways. Doctors who take the time to notice the stress behind the plastered on, expected of you smile. Friends who won't accept no for an answer and come over for coffee because they know you need them more than you will ever admit. A husband who meet you in the kitchen with a long hug until your shoulders release just a bit of tension. Laughter of your daughter playing with you. Medications that can bridge the gap and help you get past the initial hurdles. Scripture running through your mind in the wee hours of the mornings.Provision... Even in the deepest pits of despair, He is with me. I am not forgotten. I am not alone.

Whether it comes through depression, infertility, health issues, abandonment, financial strain, loss, or any other of life's hard situations, when we admit our limitations and our weaknesses, get over our pride, past our fears, we find where God is redeeming us. His unending love and immeasurable power will never fall short to what life can throw at us. God will give us more than we can handle, but He will help us handle it.

Though I am more than ready to get out of this pit, I am grateful to be in it. I get to see my God in a whole new light. I get to understand what depression really feels like, so I can better encourage others who are also struggling with this awful state of mind. I get to let go of my own assumptions, my own capabilities, my own desires, my expectations and just breathe. I get to feel Him wrap His loving arms around me and know that in time, I will be made whole in Him. There is purpose in this pain.

Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

With that complete trust and power of Christ resting on us, we can jump over hurdles we never thought possible. We can climb out of pits and weave through all the jagged crooks and crannies. We can scale the boulders in our lives... all while our Heavenly Father is guiding our feet to the safe steps and holding our hands so we don't slip. Our focus is on Him and he will show us the beauty that lies in even the worst life can throw at us. What was once a dangerous cliff, can become a new adventure, a new perspective of the world, a chance to feel a whole new depth and richness to living again.

If you feel you may be struggling with depression, please don't be ashamed. Please call your doctor and seek help. Tell your spouse, a trusted friend, a pastor. It is a real thing and can affect every aspect of your life. You don't have to keep bearing this burden alone. There is hope and help available.