We’re kicking off a brand new series today called That’s Just Wrong! In this series, we’re going to talk about some very common beliefs that a lot of people have. These beliefs sound good. They sound right. They even sound biblical. But there’s just one problem…they aren’t actually in the Bible!
Over the next three weeks, we’re going to expose some of these widely held beliefs and we’re also going to open the Bible and see what God actually says about this stuff.
Let me pray for us and then we’ll get rolling.
I’ve reached a milestone in my parenting. Nicki and I have two boys. Ryan is 9 and Brock is 6. And we’ve reached a milestone with Ryan. And that milestone is that Ryan is old enough now that I can put him to work.
For example, this past week I looked out and saw that our driveway was covered with snow…again. I started to get all my snow gear out so I could go shovel the driveway…again. And then I stopped and thought, “Wait a minute. There is a 9-year-old boy who lives in this house.”
And that thought was quickly followed by these words: “Ryan, go shovel the driveway!”
And a few minutes later, I was standing in my pajamas, drinking coffee, and watching out the window as my son shoveled the driveway. It was a beautiful moment!
But that’s actually not a rare moment in our house. The older Ryan gets, the more responsibility he gets. The way I figure it, I’m not too far away from never mowing my yard again! At least not while there are two able-bodied boys living in my house.
But, I’m not unrealistic about this. For example, I didn’t ask Ryan to shovel the driveway when we got a ton of snow, topped with ½” of ice a few weeks ago. That’s some of the hardest shoveling I’ve ever done. I didn’t ask my 9-year-old to do it for one simple reason: I knew he couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to give him something that I knew he couldn’t handle.
Now, let’s extrapolate that and apply it to God. How many times of you heard this phrase?
“God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.”
This phrase gets batted around a lot when we’re going through a tough time. For example, I’ve heard it a lot at funerals. I don’t know what it is about a funeral, but it can bring out some of the dumbest, most trite, and even hurtful clichés that you’ve ever heard.
Let’s just say that you’re at the funeral of a loved one. You’re broken. You’re crying. You’re obviously hurting. And some well-meaning Christian comes up to you and says, “It’s okay. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel better? No, it makes you feel worse! Because you’re not handling this at all, and if God won’t give you more than you can handle, then there must be something wrong with you!
Caylah Alexander wrote that, when you say this, “what you are [actually] saying to someone who has reached a point when they cannot bear to go forward is basically, ‘Cowboy up, wimp.’
I know there’s a well-meaning sentiment behind this phrase, but this is actually one of the dumbest Christian clichés that has ever existed. It doesn’t help anybody, and the reason it doesn’t help anybody is because it’s just wrong.
So, where did this phrase come from in the first place? Some credit it to Mother Theresa. It’s reported that Mother Theresa said, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
I understand what she was saying, if she actually said this. It’s kind of funny. It’s kind of self-deprecating. It’s an honest admission that life is rough.
But the statement itself is not true, even if Mother Theresa said it.
“But wait a minute! I saw that picture on Facebook. And they put the quote over pretty flowers and sunshine. And there’s even a ladybug on it. I’m sorry, but if I see pretty flowers and sunshine and a ladybug on Facebook, then it must be true!”
I hate to bust your bubble, but it’s not. It’s just not.
And then there are others who say, “But wait a minute. That phrase comes from the Bible!”
Um…no. No it doesn’t. A lot of people think it does, but it doesn’t. A lot of people attribute this phrase to the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in the city of Corinth. But let’s read what he actually wrote.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV)
This is one of the most misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied verses in the Bible. People read that and say, “See! God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle!”
But that’s not what Paul said. That’s not what he said AT ALL. What is Paul talking about in this verse? He’s talking about temptation. He is writing about how we are all tempted to sin. And he gives us this promise…whenever we are tempted, God provides an escape. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. There is always a way out.
With regard to temptation and sin, Paul pointed out that we always have a choice: engage in sin or run from it. The promise is that God will always provide a way for us to run from it. With temptation, we have a choice, but with suffering we often don’t have a choice.
This whole idea of “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle” is just wrong. It’s not Scriptural. It’s not true.
Let’s break this down logically. “God won’t give me anything that I can’t handle. “ Okay, then the conclusion is, “You can handle what God gives you.”
If you’ve ever studied logic, then you know what we’re doing here. Let’s continue with this syllogism. There are the major and the minor premises that lead to this conclusion.
Major Premise: Everything in your life is what God gives you.
Minor Premise: You can handle everything in your life.
There is so much wrong here. There are so many fallacies here.
First of all, look at the major premise. Everything in your life is what God gives you. That completely negates the existence of evil. It ignores the fact that Satan and his demonic forces are real and they are active. It ignores the fact that we live in a broken, fallen, sin-stained world that is not at all what God originally designed. It takes evil completely out of the equation.
Just because something happens in your life doesn’t mean that God “gave it to you.” The major premise is theologically incorrect.
And the minor premise is practically incorrect. “You can handle everything in your life.” I know this is not true based on practical experience. There have been plenty of times when I simply couldn’t handle what was happening in my life.
Maybe you think that a pastor should be able to handle whatever comes his way with grace and strength and unwavering faith. If that’s what you want, then you probably need to look for another church. Because this church has a pastor whose life is messy. Who doesn’t always hold up well when life gets rough. Who doesn’t pray nice, neat tidy prayers, but instead who yells at God from time to time.
This church has a pastor who gets angry. Who struggles with doubt. Who sometimes says words he shouldn’t. And who questions his faith sometimes.
When life roughs me up, that’s how I respond. And if you want to take shots at me for it, go ahead. If that’s the price I have to pay for being honest, then fire away.
The truth is that God is good, and that means that not everything in our lives comes from Him. We need to reject the major premise of this argument.
And the truth is that sometimes life is more than I can handle. And sometimes it’s more than you can handle, too. We need to reject the minor premise of this argument, as well.
And by rejecting the premise of the argument, it sets us free to reject the conclusion. And by rejecting the conclusion, we are set free to discover what is actually true.
Here’s what is actually true. We talked about how the Apostle Paul often gets misquoted in this argument. Let’s listen to something that Paul actually said.
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9a, NIV)
Does this sound like, “God won’t give me more than I can handle?” No, it sounds like the exact opposite. “We were under great pressure, FAR BEYOND OUR ABILITY TO ENDURE. So much pressure that we DESPAIRED of life itself.”
Despair. Pressure beyond what he could endure. You’re not going to see that on a sappy Facebook picture anytime soon, but it’s true. This is what Paul was actually facing. And this is how he was actually feeling. He had been given more than he could handle, and he was at the end of his rope. And no platitude, no cliché, no sentimental claptrap was going to help him.
The first thing you need to realize is that life is more than you can handle. If you can’t handle everything that’s going on in your life right now, you need to know that you’re among friends. Because none of us can handle everything that life throws at us. None of us always react like a Christian is “supposed” to react. We go through times of anger. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Despair. And a lot of us feel guilty about that, because we’ve been told that God won’t give us anything that we can’t handle. We feel guilty because, the truth is, we’re not handling it at all.
But it’s actually liberating to know that God never said that. You can read the Bible cover to cover and you’ll never find that. It’s cultural cliché, not a Scriptural truth. And it’s actually really arrogant to believe that you can handle everything in your life. That’s incredibly prideful, and pride is a horrible motivator to do anything.
I was a student minister for the first ten years of my ministry. And being a student minister, I went to a ton of youth conferences and conventions.
One of them was a Jr. High conference called Believe. Our Jr. Highers here at Connect went to that conference this weekend, as a matter of fact.
There are some crazy things that happen at a Jr. High conference. And one year, I was pulled into one of those crazy things. They were playing some games on the stage. It was first thing in the morning and they were trying to get 1200 Jr. Highers to wake up, so there was some pretty crazy stuff happening on stage.
Somehow I got called up on the stage for a game. Not that big a deal, right? Well, then I found out what the game was. You’ve heard of bobbing for apples. You plunge your head into a big bowl of water and you pull out an apple with your teeth.
Well, this game was kind of like that. Except that instead of apples, they were using raw fish. Yep, I was going to bob for raw fish.
There were two other adults on stage with me, and they both took their turns ahead of me. Both of them tried, and both of them failed. They came out of the water with no fish in their mouth.
I decided right then and there that that wasn’t going to be me. I had a surge of pride that said, “You can handle this.”
So I plunged me head into the water. In fact, I went in above my shoulders. While I was under water, I could faintly hear the crowd yelling and cheering. I simply was not going to fail. I opened my eyes in that fish water so I could see what I was doing. I found a piece of raw fish floating in the water, and I bit down hard. And when my head came out of that water, I had the nastiest piece of sushi in my mouth that you’ve ever tasted. But I did it. My pride said I could handle it, so I did.
But I paid a price for that pride. First of all, I went through the rest of the day soaking wet. And there was not enough gum in the world to get the taste of raw fish out of my mouth. And the worst part was I really craned my neck to grab that piece of fish, and my neck hurt for a solid week after that. I could barely turn my head. Yep, pride was a really good motivator.
When pride tells us that we can handle what life throws at us, there will be a price to pay. It takes humility to admit that you actually CAN’T handle everything in your life, but humility is exactly where we need to be.
That’s why Peter reminds us that, “‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5b-7, NIV)
When we humble ourselves and admit that life is more than we can handle, we position ourselves in a way that allows God to go to work. When we humble ourselves, He will lift us up in due time.
In due time. Not in our time. God’s timing and our timing are rarely the same timing. But in due time, we will see God work if we humble ourselves and cast all our anxiety on Him.
And look at why we do that. Peter reminds us of this simple but life-changing truth. God cares for us.
God cares for you. In the midst of your financial crisis, He cares for you. In the midst of your divorce, He cares for you.
When the doctor gives you terrible news, He cares for you. When your kids walk away from the faith that you instilled in them, He cares for you. When you can’t have children at all, He cares for you.
When you call out to Him for help, He cares for you. And when you scream at Him in anger, He cares for you.
This is the foundational truth that we have to build on. God cares. He cares about what is going on in your life. He cares for you.
Now, let’s go back and look at what Paul said again. Only this time we’re going to read a little further.
Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.
[It was more than he could handle, plain and simple. But then he goes on.]
“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (2 Corinthians 1:9b-11a, NIV)
Paul said that his struggle taught him not to rely on himself, but on God. This is the antithesis of, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
Paul is saying, “I can’t handle this at all, so I’m not going to rely on myself. I’m not going to just grit my teeth and push through it. I’m not going to believe that I can handle anything that comes my way. I’m going to rely on God.”
And then Paul went on to say, “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”
And here’s where we find the key to the whole thing. Paul said two things that are crucial for us to get our arms around.
1. Paul placed his hope in God. He remembered how God had been faithful in the past, and that gave him the hope that God would continue to be faithful to him. He placed all his hope in God.
2. But secondly, he invited other people in. He said, “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.”
He had other people praying for him. Other people were encouraging him. Serving him. Ministering to him. But none of that would have happened if Paul had not invited them in.
And this is where a lot of us really throw a wrench into the works. We refuse to invite other people in.
“If I invite other people in, then they’ll realize that I don’t have everything together. They’ll see that things in my life are messy. My flaws and imperfections and (gasp!) sins will be exposed. I can’t let that happen.”
And so once again, what’s our motivator? Pride. Pride motivates us to keep everyone at arm’s length. Pride tells us not to be authentic. Don’t be real with anybody. Just figure out a way to handle this on your own.
We’ve already seen that this doesn’t work, but that’s exactly where pride keeps us. Why does God oppose the proud but show favor to the humble? Because humble people are okay with inviting other people into their mess. They’re okay with people seeing the flaws and the struggles and even the sins. And because they’re willing to invite people in, they receive prayer. They receive love. They receive encouragement. They’re reminded that they’re not in this alone.
God works in a lot of different ways, but one His favorite ways to work is through His people. That’s one reason why the church is essential.
There is a big movement today to say that you can be cool with Jesus, but you don’t need the church. Once again, you’re not going to find that in the Bible. Anywhere. The Bible never, ever talks about an unchurched Christian. Biblically speaking, it doesn’t exist.
And when we decide that we don’t need the church, we cut ourselves off from people who want to pray for us. Love us. Encourage us. Support us.
“But the church is full of hypocrites.”
You’re right…and there’s always room for one more! The church is filled with messy, broken, sinful people. But it’s filled with messy, broken, sinful people who know that they can’t do life alone. And because of the church, they don’t have to do life alone.
Here’s how it works in the church. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)
There is a cycle of comfort in the church. God gives comfort, and that comfort is passed on through His people. It’s one of the most powerful ways in which God works in our lives. And it’s why you need the church. And it’s why I need the church.
“Well, I don’t need to be comforted right now.”
Okay, that means that you are the comforter right now. And make no mistake about it…the day will come when you’ll need to be on the receiving end of that very same comfort. It’s a cycle that will never be broken as long as we’re in this world, which is why we’ll always need the church. We’ll always need to humble ourselves and be willing to invite people into our mess.
Maybe you had a bad experience with that in the past. You invited a Christian brother or sister in when you were hurting, and they did nothing but kick you while you were down. For whatever reason, a lot of Christians seem to be very good at shooting their own wounded.
I can’t speak for them. All I can do is apologize for them. I’m sorry they hurt you. I’m sorry they weren’t a good representative of Christ. I’m sorry they didn’t meet you with comfort and compassion.
But I also want you to know that they don’t represent all of us. One thing that we are adamant about here at Connect is that this is a safe place to bring your burdens, your struggles, your pain, your brokenness. We won’t kick you while you’re down. Instead, we’ll get down on the floor with you.
Paul had that kind of circle. He placed his hope in God, but he also invited other people in. And that meant that he didn’t have to handle life alone. And you don’t have to handle life alone, either.
And the reason you don’t have to handle life alone is because of what Jesus did for you on the cross. In Matthew 11, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
Jesus is speaking to those of us who are weary. Tired. Exhausted.
And burdened. Carrying a heavy load. Carrying more on your shoulders than you could ever manage on your own.
And then He says something so incredible. He says, “Take MY yoke upon you.” The implication is a trade. Jesus is saying, “You give me your burden to carry, and I’ll give you my yoke to carry. And what you’ll find is that my yoke is easy and light…because my yoke is freedom. My yoke is grace. My yoke is love. My yoke is peace. And my yoke will give you something you’ll never be able to find anywhere else…rest for your soul.”
If you could handle your life alone, then Jesus would have never had to die for you. But you couldn’t. And neither could I. We were lost in our sin. Lost in a mess of our own making. And Jesus died to pay the price for all our sin. And then He rose to a new life, which gives us a new life.
If He’s willing to go through all that to give you eternal life, why would you ever think that He doesn’t care about your life now? If Jesus would go through all of that to save you, why would you think that you’re supposed to handle life on your own?
Jesus’ death proves that He loves you. And His resurrection proves that He is more powerful than anything you’re facing in your life. You can’t handle everything that life throws at you, but He can. And if you trust Him, He will.