“God Will Not Give You More Than You Can Handle.”

Ah, the theological platitudes of Hallmark Christianity. Statements like these are quoted so often that they’re generally regarded as biblical truth:

God helps those who help themselves.

God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

We might as well be saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Not only are these things not in the Bible, but most of them are actually contrary to the gospel. I mean, do we honestly think we can handle the stuff of life?

Cancer?

Financial trouble?

Sexual temptation?

Who do we think we are?

The truth is, as anyone who has genuinely suffered will tell you, that God will often give you more than you can handle.

And He will do it precisely because you can’t help yourself.

Paul had more than he could handle. He had what he described as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12). Scholars debate what that thorn might be, but it seems to be some kind of painful, physical condition. Perhaps a recurring form of malaria he picked up on one of his island adventures. And it hurt. A lot.

So much that Paul begged the Lord three times to take it away. But God did not. Instead, he reminded Paul that the thorn was there in order to display the strength of God.

God will give you more than you can handle. And when He does, our choice is relatively simple: we can despair, or we can turn our eyes on the truth of the gospel, that God makes up for what we lack. That His strength is perfected in weakness. That God helps those who cannot help themselves.

We can’t handle the thorns. But gloriously, we follow a King whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.

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24 Comments

  • This was truly inspirational to me. I have had the worst day ever. The company that I have worked for, for the past 5 years, asked me to step down today. At first I was okay with it, I was telling myself, “Who needs to be manger?…. Its okay, i did nit do that much anyway” and then I realized that it was not fair that after all the hard work and sacrifice that I put into my job over the years, that I would be asked to step down. But especially after reading this, I realize that me stepping down, is an opportunity, an opportunity to reach out to others that I may never have.

  • Jason Kanz says:

    Thanks for writing this. I wrote a similar post 2 years ago after my wife was diagnosed with cancer.

    http://docsdining.blogspot.com/2009/10/more-than-i-can-handle.html

  • jim g says:

    Michael,
    I understand (at least in part) what you are saying and agree. God puts us beyond our natural ability to endure to cause us to lean on Him and not our idols, (known and unknown). I have been in a fiery trial for some time and the verse in 1 Corinthians 10:31 has come to mind many times which says “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (ESV) I have found comfort from this passage, regarding the fact that God will indeed not give me a temptation (such as worry) without providing a way of escape (my hope in the gospel and His faithfulness and goodness). So how do I put these 2 together, is he going to give me more than I can endure or not? Not trying to be picky, truly want to know your take. Am I misapplying 1 Corinthians 10:13? I am blessed with your blog many days. Thank you for your labors.

  • i preached & posted on this same thing several months ago… glad to have another reminder…

    http://thelowercase.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/rejoice-god-does-not-have-faith-in-you/

  • MK says:

    Jim – Thanks for the comment, and thanks for bringing up this passage in Corinthians. No, I don’t think you’re misusing that verse. It’s there to give us confidence in the face of temptation. But the ugly side of overcoming temptation is pride. I know I’ve found that to be true – that the temptation on the back side of temptation is to be impressed with my own ability.

    In combining these truths, we know that we can overcome temptation, but it’s precisely and only because of God’s work in us. It’s only through believing in what has happened to us in the gospel that we humbly say no to ungodliness.

  • MK says:

    Thanks for the link, Stephen.

  • MK says:

    Thanks for this link, Jason. Cancer is indeed more than I can handle, too.

  • Tara says:

    Nothing philosophical to add- just a thank you. This was music to my ears today.

  • jim g says:

    Thanks for responding Mike. You are right about the temptation of my pride even in the face of help from the Lord. How I need Christ’s righteousness and the gospel for this too!

  • Good article which speaks the truth of Scripture.

    If you can go back and edit. Edit these errors. The teacher in me can’t let it slide.

    Give won’t give you more than you can handle.

    ~~~God won’t give you more than you can handle.

    Alot

    ~~~ A lot.

  • MK says:

    This is a beautiful comment, Missy. Feel free to edit me any time. I’m making your corrections now.

  • Patrick Brink says:

    Hi Jim,
    If I could respond to your question about “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
    I would point that the verse taken in context with the previous verses is actually talking about sinful temptations and not trials. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things…idolatry…sexual immorality…etc” God is not talking about the trials and tribulations that come our way in this passage, but is talking about those things that tempt us and would possibly cause us to fall.

    So it is true to say that God gives us trials that we can’t handle, in order that we would depend solely on Him. But He will also not tempt us or place sinful temptations in our way that we could not handle. Christ is the answer in both instances.

  • Pat Heffner says:

    How often do folks tell a person who is going through tough times “God won’t put on you more than your can bear”, meaning well I am sure but they forget the rest of the verse which is so important, and that is, but he he will show you a way through it. At funerals you often hear well meaning person say to the ones grieving only one part of the scripture, which is really not comforting at all. God is not a God of death but life, here on earth and all eternity.
    Of course I used pharaphrased quotes.

  • Matt says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the reminder!
    When I have heard folks say that God doesnt give them more than they can handle, I think they are generally thinking of 1 Cor. 10:13 as Jim above mentioned.

    I am often reminded of 2 Cor. 1:8-9 where Paul said he was under great pressure, far beyond his ability to endure – so much so that he even despaired of life! But this was so that he didnt rely on himself, “but on God who raises the dead.” Suffering gives us an opportunity like nothing else to rely on God rather than on ourselves. And He has and will deliver us, so lets set our hope on Him! (verse 10)

  • MK says:

    Well said, Matt. I particularly resonate with your comments regarding suffering and how one of God’s redemptive purposes in it is to position us in a perpetual state of weakness

  • Bryan says:

    I will have to say with all the worry from situations that I cannot control and may force us to lose our basic needs after losing everything else. We have been given more than can be handled. Now the sickness from the constant stress is starting to make me wonder again what is really is going on. Trying to change the situation has been a lesson in futility.

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