Does God Ever Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

SufferingI shared an article on my Facebook wall the other day in which a pastor makes the case that God does give us more than we can handle. I happened to agree with this suffering Christian. However, a friend of mine who loves Jesus and the Catholic Church and knows Scripture took issue with the article.

(Note: you need to have Christians – and by that I mean Jesus-following and Bible-loving folks – who don’t think like you in your life. I joked with my friend, “As iron sharpens iron, so a devout Catholic sharpens an evangelical Protestant.” It’s a joke, but it’s also true.)

The dialogue with my friend helped me get to the bottom of why I agreed with the pastor’s sentiment and what he could have done to be more clear about his statement that God gives us more than we can handle (assuming his intent was to be biblical).

Go read the article for some background if you want. I’ll wait.

While my Catholic friend brought numerous disagreements to the table, his main beef was that, through Christ, we can handle anything (Philippians 4:13), and, if we believe in God’s sovereignty, we are to believe that whatever is happening to us is God’s will (Ephesians 1:11). That fact alone should give us reason to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and embrace the burden (James 1:2), motivating us to stand up and endure. Not to mention, my friend pointed out, that God loves His people and would not “burden us past our capability”.

(I told you this guy is sharp.)

Clearly, I couldn’t refute my friends thoughts. I agree with his Bible-supported statements, although I could take issue with his assumption about how a loving God would and wouldn’t act, per his last thought. On the whole, my friend’s arguments are right.

And, yet, I still agreed with the bulk of the article stating the (seemingly) exact opposite: God does give us more than we can handle at times.

After some thinking, I realized the discord between my friend’s correct assertions and the author’s correct assertions was due to a lack of clarity on the author’s part.

The author wrote with an unspoken presupposition in mind that made a subtle appearance toward the end of the article but should have been more prominent. Because it wasn’t, my friend jumped on the lack of clarity and assumed the author to be off his biblical rocker.

The major distinction that wasn’t made clear is this: when we operate out of our own strength, what God gives us is often more than we can handle. But when we operate in total dependence on Christ, He will supernaturally enable us to handle anything. 

So, you see, both my friend and the author are right.

We have to get to the end of ourselves – we have to be broken, unable to bear anymore in our own strength – before we learn what it is to fully rely on Christ. God knows this, which is why, I believe, He does allow us to experience more than we can bear IN OUR OWN STRENGTH. We won’t turn to Him if we can bear it all alone.

Because He loves us and out of His desire for us to be drawn into closer, more dependent, and, simultaneously, more powerful relationship with Him, He allows/causes our burdens to accumulate when we aren’t depending on Him enough so we will depend on Him enough. He lets situations become too much so we realize how much He is – enough.

So, per the article’s point, don’t tell someone who is suffering that God won’t give them more than they can bear. Instead, tell them God gives us more than we can bear so we learn how to bear all with Him, and encourage them to use their suffering to, “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually,” (Psalm 105:4).

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When to Speak Up

Yesterday I found myself in the middle of some Facebook evangelism. 

You know what I mean, right?

I got sucked in to a religious debate via social media.  I don’t usually recommend this.  Any serious conversation about faith that takes place through a non-face to face (or at least voice to voice) medium means two things are sacrificed: tone of voice and body language.  In other words, people can’t sense the love, concern or humility Christians must employ in order to earn the right to speak to an unbeliever about his beliefs.

And so I find social media evangelism to usually be more harmful than productive.

So why did I go against my rule of thumb and engage in a spiritual debate on Facebook yesterday?

Because the Bible was being misquoted.

A friend of mine put as her status “‘Let us love one another because love is God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’ John 4:7-8”

There are two errors in this quote.  Can you spot them?

One error is not that big of a deal to me.  The scripture is actually from First John, not the Gospel of John.  And if that had been the only problem, I wouldn’t have said anything.  Unfortunately, the other error required me to pipe up.

My friend had omitted a preposition.  The verse does not read in any translation “love is God.” The KJV and NKJV say “love is of God”.  The NIV and NLT read “love comes from God”.  The ESV and NASB say “love is from God”.

I pointed this out to my friend, and she did not see the importance of her error.  She is not a Christian.  She is more new age than anything else.  And to her, love IS God, and God IS love, so the phrases are interchangeable.  Preposition or no preposition, there is no difference of meaning in her mind.

It is fine for her to think that way.  She isn’t a Christian.  So why did I get so bent out of shape about it?

Because she advertised that “love is God” is biblical.

And I was not about to let her lead others who don’t know that much about the scripture astray, whether it was an innocent typo or a deliberate omission.  Love is God was never taught by Christ.  It is true that God is love (1 John 4:8).  It is idolatry to say that love is God.  See the difference?

When we decide that we will only do that which we deem to be loving, making love our god, we will inevitably make mistakes.  We will think we are being loving sometimes, but, in reality, we are not.  A lot of times we distort love, mixing in selfishness and manipulation, convincing ourselves that we are loving well even when we know we are not.

We will also find we have conflicting views with others about love – what it is, how to give it, when to give it, what it should look like.  To subscribe to the ideology that “love is God” is to subscribe to an ideology that is impossible to live out.

God is love.  He created love.  Love persists throughout His being.  Love motivates Him to act how He acts.  But He is much more than love.  He is also holy.  And just.  And righteous.  To boil God down to one trait – love – is to miss that He is a person.  He has the whole range of emotions.  He has relationships with others.  He wants a relationship with us.

My daughter, Allie, is cute.  So is my other daughter, Lexi.  But for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with Allie.  Allie is cute.  Is cute Allie?  No.  Cute is just one of Allie’s many traits.  To limit her to cute is to miss that she is a person with a will and emotions and flaws.

Back to Facebook evangelism…

Don’t do it.  Unless the Bible is being misquoted.  Then you must do it.  Because the Bible means everything.  It is the basis of our beliefs as Christians.  If we let it get distorted, we lose the ability to give a reason for the hope that lies within us (1 Pe. 3:15).  And if we lose that ability, all we are are candles in the wind.

Cue Elton John.