Show of hands … who has heard this at some point? Chances are, if you’ve ever gone through a rough patch, someone has patted you on the back and tried to encourage you with those words.
People normally say it with good intentions. After all, it’s a phrase that’s meant to offer encouragement and reassurance. But in my experience, it’s only brought more discouragement.
Because here’s the thing: it’s not true. Nowhere in Scripture does it say God won’t give us more than we can handle. (Some of you may think of 1 Corinthians 10:13—that is specifically talking about temptations that are too hard to bear, not pain and suffering.) God is going to give us more than we can handle because it teaches us to rely on Him.
Think of all the instances in Scripture of normal people facing huge challenges and trials. Daniel was in the lion’s den. Moses faced Pharaoh. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago were thrown into a fiery furnace. Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, and beaten. David battled Goliath. Noah built an ark to face a flood. Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish. Mary was told she was carrying a child, and she was a virgin. Do you think they handled it on their own? No! They cast their burdens on God, they cried out to God for help and relief, and they trusted God throughout their trials.
We can’t handle life and its troubles on our own. We’re not strong enough. And why should we think we are? Even Jesus cried out to the Father when His heart was deeply troubled. The night before He was crucified He told His disciples that His “soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matt. 26:38, NIV), and then He continued to pray to the Father, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Jesus—in all His strength and power—turned to the Father when He was overcome with sorrow.
When we reach that point—the point where we are overwhelmed with sorrow—we realize there’s no way we are strong enough to handle our troubles on our own. We need God to be our strength. We need Him to take our burdens upon Himself. And Scripture teaches us that He does:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7, NIV)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26, ESV)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1, ESV)
The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14, NIV)
Cast your burdens on the LORD, and he will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22, ESV)
And the list goes on and on and on. God wants us to cast our burdens on Him. He wants us to rely on Him for our strength. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to handle my problems on my own. And when we rely on Him for our strength, He is glorified.
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 weaknesses, 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 12:9-10