GOD WON'T GIVE YOU ANY MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE
I am certain that there are scores of precious people who have said this phrase before:
“God won’t give you any more than you can handle.” The questions are, is that a Bible verse? Is that true?
Well the thought actually comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, but there, the Bible is specifically talking about temptation.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13 NASB).
Remember to understand a verse in context you have to read the verses before it and after it.
If you read the verses that surround this text there is no doubt that it is about the temptation to fall into sin like Israel did. I will underline some key portions to confirm this:
1 Corinthians 10:6-12
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.
7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play."
8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. NASB
1 Corinthians 10:14
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. NASB
The promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is not about God not giving us more than we can handle it is about God not allowing temptation to overwhelm us without Him providing a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall into sin (like Israel did).
I think this is very critical to understand because many people may feel that when life gives them more than they can (honestly) handle they may conclude that God has let them down. They may even repeat this phrase “God won’t give you (or me) any more than you (I) can handle.” But I do not believe that God has promised this. I think that this is one of those phrases much like “God helps them who help themselves” that people repeat so often that they assume it is in the Bible but it actually is not!
So what does the Bible say about this subject? Where is God and how does He help us when life throws these curve balls at us and one thing gets stacked on top of another thing and on top of another until we feel that we are under the crushing weight of pressure, anxiety and stress? Well, if you are like most people we will have to honestly say that this phrase comes out of our mouth more often than we’d like to admit: “I can’t handle this!!” (Can you relate?!)
It might be that the kids have frazzled your last remaining nerve, it might be a co-worker, friend or acquaintance who has betrayed you or seriously gotten under your skin, it might be 91 Freeway traffic! It could also be that a close relationship is terribly strained or that a dearly beloved friend or family member is gravely ill or has died. I am sure you can make your own list here and add numerous other situations, people and scenarios that zap our own strength.
In times like these are we to cling to the phrase “God won’t give you any more than you can handle”, tighten our shoelaces, take a deep breath and push forward despite how we really feel? And when we are poured out and at the end of the last ounce of strength we have should we conclude that either God has let us down and not kept His Word or we are just too weak, or both? No, I think there is another answer - A Biblical answer.
In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 Paul wrote (I will under line some key phrases):
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,
May I be so bold as to say that I think God allows us to be in situations where we can’t handle it and when it is beyond our strength so that we might depend on Him more! Notice that Paul said that this affliction that came to them in Asia “burdened (them) excessively” and was “beyond our strength.”
The NIV puts it this way: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8B NIV).
And he concludes that this was…“in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God…” (v. 9)
It appears that God will give us more than we can handle so that we will give Him the handle to steer our lives! The point is that the key to the Christian life is not trying to be strong in ourselves, but rather letting God’s power and strength fill and empower us through the inevitable difficulties of life and even Gospel ministry. Think of people like Moses (Exodus 3:11-12), Gideon (Judges 6:15-16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5-9), David (2 Samuel 7:18), Peter (Luke 5:8) and Paul (2 Corinthians 2:16, 3:5-6, 4:7-11, 12:9-10). They were all given tasks and tests that were much bigger than themselves. In fact, many people in the Bible were overwhelmed with what God called them to do. God would often remind them that He was with them (see Joshua 1:5-9) and would supply what they needed. Over and over again God took His people into situations that were humanly impossible so He would receive the glory (see Judges 7:2, cf. Exodus 14). It was much more than they could handle and that was the point! God’s power showed up to see them through (see Daniel 3:16-30). Where they were weak, He was strong (Exodus 15:2).
What we can be assured of is that when we go through these difficult trials God will be with us (He will also use those trials to develop perseverance and proven character, see Rom. 5:3-4, 15:5 James 1:2-4) and He will use our experiences of His strength showing up in our storm to comfort others who are going through similar stuff. And we can say to them from experience ‘you will make it through.’
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;
4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. NASB
Paul wrote later in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. NASB