“God will never give you more than you can handle.” I’ve heard this sentiment many times, in many contexts, and from many different kinds of people. Sometimes it’s used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Other times, I’ve heard it used to spur an audience on to do great things for Christ because “you can handle anything that comes your way!” I even once heard the story of David and Goliath used as proof of this idea. According to the speaker, the fact that there was only one giant in front of David was evidence that God will never give His people more than they can handle.
The problem with this statement is two-fold. First, it’s just plain false. David was an untrained teenage shepherd boy. He couldn’t even handle one giant. And most of you (if not all) have already learned that life will absolutely bring more stress and worry and trials and struggles than you can bear. Second, this statement puts the emphasis in the wrong place. It encourages us to rely on ourselves, on our own strength and mental fortitude and perseverance, rather than on the God who created us to be dependent on Him. To correct this, let’s take a look at a passage of Scripture from Paul – 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.
“We Were Completely Overwhelmed…”
Here is the first problem with this statement: To tell someone that they will never face more than they can handle is simply false. Even Paul, chosen apostle of God and author of two-thirds of the New Testament, experienced greater trials than he could withstand. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a (CSB), Paul writes,
We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed – beyond our strength – so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death…”
While we aren’t told the exact nature of what Paul faced, he leaves no room for misinterpretation in his letter. Whatever trial Paul encountered, it was severe. He was completely overwhelmed. It was beyond his strength to cope with. He felt as though he were under a death sentence.
You have likely felt this way before. Maybe your trial was a brief one, or maybe it lasted for years. You may still be in that time of suffering right now. Whatever the case, the bottom line is this: In this life, at some point, you will absolutely be faced with more than you are capable of handling, and no earthly power will be enough to help you. Not your friends. Not your therapist. Not your family. Not your pastor. Fortunately, God is faithful to deliver His people.
“We Have Put Our Hope In Him…”
The second problem with our original statement is that it places the emphasis on us. It tells us that the solution to all of our problems is within us and that we have what it takes to overcome our trials. As we have already seen, this is false. So who do we turn to if not ourselves? Paul continues,
“…so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again…” (2 Cor. 1:9b-10).
Paul knew where his hope was found. When overwhelmed with affliction, he knew that his trust could not be in himself, but must be in God. Scripture is full of people who knew that God must be our hope.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…” (Psalm 61:1-2).
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
When trials like Paul’s come to you, overwhelming and beyond your strength, find your rest in Christ. What does that look like? Seek solitude with God. Take your worries and fears in prayer to the One who created you. Open His Word and find comfort. Share your burden with your local church and allow them to minister to you. Trust in the One who is powerful enough to rescue, faithful to deliver, and always good.
A final note that I think is important to address: Sometimes things don’t turn out like we think they should. Sometimes God chooses not to make our troubles vanish. Consequences have to be faced. Loved ones don’t recover from illness. We don’t get everything that we were hoping for. In these times, it is important for us to remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. They are so much greater. We must remember that, whatever happens, He is good and His will is perfect. We must remember that even if God does not deliver His people in this life, He is always faithful to deliver His people to eternal life. As Paul wrote to the Philippian church, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
Life is difficult. You will face trouble, stress, worry, and trial, but put your hope in God. He is mighty to save and He is eternally faithful to His own.