More Than We Can Handle
you ever really thought about the statement, “God
never gives us more than we can handle?”
This statement sounds so encouraging and so comforting when we’re facing a difficult trial, but…
I don’t believe it’s true.
My living with ALS is more than Mary, and I can handle. I look around me and see others, even family and friends, trying to cope with difficult trials that they don’t seem to be handling very well. Others are trying to battle temptations like drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and so many other “lures” that they don’t seem to have the power to conquer. Still, others are trying to fight what appear to be oppressive spirits that we call Depression, Bi–polar Disorder, PTSD, and too many other names to list in this short blog post.
It’s all too much to handle!
“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, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The above verse is where the “God never gives us more than we can handle” saying comes from. The Greek origin of the word “temptation” (peirasmos), used in this verse, can also mean “test” and “trial.”
Pretty much every challenge we’re trying to cope with falls under the category of a temptation, test or trial. But, nowhere in the above verse does it say that “God gives us” these horrible tests, trials, and temptations.
The suicide rate in America has risen 30% since 1999, and deaths from drug overdoses are at an all-time high. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in America for those under 55 years of age. So many people are dying from suicides and drug overdoses that the overall life expectancy rate has dropped for the last three years. This three-year decline is the most since World War 1 and the flu pandemic a hundred years ago.
Apparently, many people are going through difficulties that are more than they can handle. In this life, we will undoubtedly face tests, trials, and temptations that are “more than we can handle.” God doesn’t “give us” difficult trials, but, for reasons we can’t fully understand in this life, He does allow them to come against even the most faithful followers of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote the above verse, and also the passage below. The passage below gives us the biggest reason that God does allow tests, trials, and temptations to invade our lives. This passage also gives context to the “God never gives us more than we can handle” saying:
“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; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
“Affliction,” “burdened excessively, beyond our strength,” “despaired even of life…”
Can you relate to this? Mary and I sure can.
Paul concluded that all of this happened to him (and to us) “so that we would (learn) not trust in ourselves, but in God…”
We will definitely face tests, trials, and temptations that are “more than we can handle,” but they are not more than God can handle – if we seek His help. Part of the grace that God gives in our tests, trials, and temptations comes in the form of people that He prompts to help us. I want to be one of these people, not only because so many people have helped us, but helping others when they’re overwhelmed by things too great for them to handle, keeps me from being “self-focused.”
Since becoming a follower of Christ, I’ve wondered why the non-Christian alcoholic, drug addict, and the suicidal didn’t give Christ a chance to help them overcome whatever their demons might be. “Do they think that becoming a follower of Christ is a fate worse than death?” I wondered.
It’s so ironic to me that many followers of Christ, people who were perfectly happy with the life they were living, chose to be martyred for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ.
The suicidal person ends his life because he has no hope, peace, and joy, while Christian martyr chooses death by refusing to renounce his hope, peace, and joy.
“Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
If it were true that ‘God never gives us more than we can handle,’ Christ suffered and died for nothing.
Picture from Amazingfacts.org
Why are so many Christians Depressed?
Depression, even among Christians, seems to be rampant today; it’s as if some kind of emotional black plague has crept into the Church.
I read several blog posts and articles every day, but last week was strange; virtually every day I found myself reading posts and articles written by or about Christians battling depression. But by far the most heart-wrenching news of last week (regarding the impact of depression on Christians) wasn’t found on a blog or in a news article; it was a phone call from a close friend telling us about a friend that had committed suicide.
The young man that committed suicide was named Jordan and he was a very talented artist and musician and, more importantly, he was a Christian. (You can see one of his music videos here and his testimony video here). From what he says in the testimony video, Jordan had battled depression for most of his life, but he seemed to be winning his battle. I don’t know what occurred in his life that caused the depression to come roaring back; maybe only God and Jordan know the answer to that question. But, as someone that believes he is called to offer hope to the hurting, I feel that I must learn more about the enemies of hope. Whatever else depression is, it definitely qualifies as one of the greatest enemies of hope!
As I suppose it is with most people that are diagnosed with a terminal disease or going through other difficult trials, I’ve experienced some difficult days of depression. I don’t remember the order or the full impact, but I imagine to some extent I went through all of the so-called “Five stages of grief” (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). But I find myself wondering what it must be like when the most difficult of those stages, depression, IS the trial, as it was with Jordan and it is with so many others.
Despite having every aspect of my life turned up-side-down by ALS, I know little about the kind of deep and dark depression that Jordan suffered from. But, I know from reading the Bible and from my own experience as a follower of Christ, that Christianity offers genuine lasting peace, hope and joy. I wouldn’t be wasting my time typing these posts if I wasn’t convinced of this. Peace, joy and hope are definitely great benefits of the Christian life, but that’s not the “Good News” message that Christ commanded us to preach – Jesus didn’t suffer and die just to make us happy – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15) Salvation is the good news.
I think this is an important fact because many “seeker friendly” churches preach a message of happiness and prosperity and, if Christians don’t feel happy and/or prosperous, they can feel un-Christian. I cannot help but wonder if the “feel good” gospel message might be exacerbating the feelings of depression among Christians.
The New Testament is an education in how to be Christ-like. But unfortunately this “Narrow path” includes trials and tribulation. My trial is ALS and for others it’s depression. As I said, I know little about that kind of oppressive depression, but I’ve concluded that it’s every bit as crippling to the soul as ALS is to the body.
I don’t feel qualified to offer spiritual advice to those suffering with this kind of depression, but I do have some general hope-building advice for Christians.
The early Christians “…were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching (reading the Bible…) and to fellowship (getting together with like-minded Christians), to the breaking of bread (church/taking communion) and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
One of my blogger friends has suffered from depression for many years. She told me that when she’s feeling depressed, she doesn’t feel like reading her Bible, going to church, getting together with people or praying. This is exactly why doing these things is so necessary. We must do the things our soul (mind, will and emotions) doesn’t “feel like doing” to build hope in our spirit – so our spirit can “preach” to our soul. The spiritual part of us preaching to the mind, will and emotions, isn’t some kind of spiritual schizophrenia; I see examples like the following throughout the Bible; “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.” (Psalm 42:11)
God also comforts us through other believers; I see examples of this throughout the Bible also. As you can see from reading verses like the following, even the Apostle Paul and the disciples dealt with depression; “…we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:5-6)
Like most of you, I didn’t know Jordan, but, as you can imagine, his family is really grieving his loss so please pray for them – “…pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)