Half- Truths Series: God Never Gives You More Than You Can Handle

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Teenagers and adults are regularly being catechized by our culture—and very often we falsely synthesize the broader culture’s convictions with our faith in Christ. In this series, Rooted writers examine “half truths” our teenagers may be tempted to embrace. Each article represents a common axiom that needs to be informed by the gospel. We hope these articles and the questions provided will help you start a gospel-centered conversation at youth group or around your dinner table. 

“This is the worst day ever! You NEVER let me get a toy! NEVER! I can’t live like this!”

Oh boy. Here we go again. I am standing in the aisle looking down at my child, who is wallowing on the floor in tears and screaming that I am the worst mom ever. This episode is embarrassing enough, but the judgmental stares from other shoppers only increase my anxiety, which by now has demolished any mom- confidence I once had. Maybe I am the worst mom ever!

I put on my brave (yet fake) smile, responding, “Yes ma’am, that is my kid on the floor screaming and crying. Oh yes, I am positive you know the best way to handle my child.” The other customers with their smug looks only had a small glimpse of our life. They had no clue of the hard circumstances our family was currently enduring. This tantrum was more about that hard thing than it was a toy. My child and I both found ourselves at the end of our ropes, feeling like we could not take it anymore.

If one of those customers had spoken to us, they might have said something like this: “Well, you know God will never give you more than you can handle.” I am cringing even now just typing it. It does sound like truth, does it not? But let’s be honest here. No one would ever say that when recounting all the blessings God has given – “Wow! Thankfully we know God will never give you more blessings than you can handle.”

So, how did that tantrum turn out? Well, I told that child she could handle not getting that toy, and then I told her to pull up those bootstraps and move along. I planted a seed of self-reliance in my daughter by implying that by merely pulling ourselves up, we could overcome this hard situation.

Think about the last struggle you had, regardless of its seriousness (a struggle is a struggle in my book). Did you tell yourself that you could handle whatever came your way? I know I have and I have taught my children to do the same. Bad day at school? That is okay – you can handle it. Security threat at your workplace? You can handle it. Nothing even happened. Cancer diagnosis? You got this! Loss of a spouse? Unwanted pregnancy? Facing a life of singleness? Abusive relationship? Prodigal child? Doubting faith?

Telling ourselves that “God will never give us more than we can handle” places the emphasis on ourselves. The door of self-reliance remains open. We allow the possibility of believing that we can handle circumstances on our own up to a certain point before crying out to God that we need him. Then once we go to the Father for help, we may expect that the hardship will immediately cease. (By the way, in my experience, that has yet to ever happen.) The implication is that IF God is good like he says he is, then we will not suffer beyond what we are comfortable with handling.

The full truth is this: we need God every single minute of the day, regardless of what we come up against. God is faithful. Only in his power will the schemes of the devil – meant to break and destroy believers – ultimately be used for good because God fulfills all of his promises:

– God has already defeated the evil that wreaks havoc in this world and in our lives. (1 Peter 3:18, Matthew 16:18, Revelation 21:4)

– No matter the circumstance we find ourselves in, Jesus has already overcome it. (John 3:16, 16:33, Hebrews 4:14-16)

– No matter how long we experience the hardship, we are given the power to endure because we can already claim the victory of Jesus (Romans 8:26-28, 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

Our call to action is to stand firm, to trust in God’s almighty power as we are bent back and forth by struggles and trials which ultimately are meant to produce spiritual growth and perseverance. We are not truly capable of managing this life on our own, in our own understanding, based on what we believe to be right and good.

Holding tight to the banner of self-reliance will always fail us. We will teach our children to be rooted in self-reliance when we manage circumstances by tagging God in only when we have come to the end of ourselves. The victory we can claim now is that we are set free from that self-reliance the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

We can do nothing apart from Christ. Abiding in him, we gain his power to endure all circumstances, no matter what we come up against.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Questions to Get Teenagers Talking

Is it wrong to have confidence in your abilities to overcome circumstances?

What does the world tell us about overcoming obstacles?

Why do you think we have trials and struggles as Christians?

Why do you think this half-truth – God never gives you more than you can handle – is common in Christian culture?

What is something you are struggling with right now? How can I best walk with you through that struggle?

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