I’m on a mission, people. Now, I don’t want to offend anybody with this, but I’ve silently watched as people tout this
nonsense advice all over the place–Facebook, Sunday school, what have you–and DAD GUMMIT, I’ve held it in as long as I can.
Yes. God DOES give you more than you can handle. Please–FOR THE LOVE OF GOD–stop telling people that He won’t.
But, Katie, how can that be? That’s what people always say to me when I’m going through a rough patch. My Sunday school teacher said it to me last month! And, actually, I just posted that to a friend’s status yesterday! How could God love me AND give me more than I can handle?!
Here’s the thing. I know (that I know that I know) that God loves me. I also know for a fact that He has—even very recently, mind you—given me more than I could handle. To be more accurate, I would say that the longer that I live in a relationship with Him, the bigger the problems become. The stakes are higher, the pain deeper, the obstacles more insurmountable.
And yet, I’ve never, ever been surer of His existence. I’m more certain of His involvement, sovereignty, and activity in my life today than at any other time in my life. More than anything, I’ve never been more aware of His love for me.
And guess what? I’ve never loved Him more.
Huh. That’s interesting. I wonder, could those two things be connected? Is it possible that the fact that I suffer actually allows me to know God’s love and love God more? That sounds wrong. Love equals insulation from all of life’s bumps and bruises, right? I would certainly love God more deeply if He would just answer all my prayers in a timely manner (in exactly the way I pray them), heal everybody, and instantaneously provide for each emotional, physical, and spiritual need.
Oddly enough, and I’m just speaking from my own experience here, I never seem to notice how much God answers my prayers, or His power to heal, or His over abundant provision, unless the bottom falls out. When things are cruising along nicely and all is right in my little world, it is a struggle to remember how much I need Him. I don’t notice that He’s answering my prayers because I don’t really have much to ask.
When my husband was a seminary student, we were members of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. On September 15, 1999, a gunman entered the church, killed seven people and injured as many more. Todd and I were not at the church building when it happened, and there certainly are many people who were more deeply affected by the horrific events of that night than we were. What I remember about the year that followed was the tremendous faith of people who were more directly affected than I was. Kevin Galey, who was the minister of counseling at the church, was hit twice and survived. His testimony is included in the book Night of Tragedy, Dawning of Light, which describes the events of that night and the period of grief and healing that followed. In the year prior to the shooting, Kevin and his wife endured what must be one of the toughest paths that God calls any believer to walk—the illness of a child. Would God give their child a serious medical issue and allow Kevin to be shot (twice) and force them to endure the painful loss of church members if He didn’t give them more than they could handle? Here’s what Kevin had to say:Throughout the past year with our son’s condition, people kept quoting a verse to me. You know in the Bible it says, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve looked for that verse. It has been a tough year and I have looked for that verse. I didn’t find it in the New Testament. It wasn’t in the Old Testament. I said, “Well, maybe it is implied in the Hebrew or the Greek.” But it’s not implied there. I have come to believe that it is not even true. God does give you more than you can handle. It’s been more than my family could handle this year. (Night of Tragedy, Dawning of Light pp. 121-122, http://www.wedgwoodbc.org/files/NightOfTragedy_ADawningOfLight.pdf)
Kevin’s testimony is so much more than I included here. It packs a punch. Take a look. In fact, read the whole book. You will be blessed. But I’ve never forgotten what he said about that “verse” not being in the bible anywhere. This revelation left me to digest that, not only does God give me more than I can handle, but He quite deliberately allows me to suffer. Now, that’s mind boggling. God’s very plan is for me to live through tragedy. Why?
For the love of God.
Last year, at the beginning of 2011, I started to unravel. For several years, I had been ignoring the signs of depression. There were a number of problems that I simply did not want to surface, so I kept kicking them to the corner, hoping they’d resolve themselves.
Toward the end of January, I came unglued one night. My sweet husband…I should really do something nice for him sometime. He must have wondered where to start, what to say, how to help. We had a long talk and decided that I should A.) make an appointment with a counselor and B.) finish out the school year and then quit teaching. While I initially felt relieved, I wasn’t prepared for how painful it would be to hash it all out with a view to getting better. Suddenly, it hurt. A lot. I heard a pastor say in a sermon once, “Ever notice that it didn’t hurt that much when the knife sliced your hand? The pain is so much worse when the wound starts to heal.”
Then, in the middle of all that emotional chaos, on March 31st, I had a miscarriage. Incidentally, I’ve had quite a few miscarriages. I’m not even sure how many.
And, as if that weren’t enough, eleven days later my father was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He lived 2 ½ months more and died on June 25th.
Now…tell me again that God won’t give me more than I can handle.
With the miscarriage and diagnosis occurring so closely together, I could not escape the notion that the Lord timed it that way on purpose. There is absolutely no way that was an accident. One terrible thing rose up out of the shadow of the other, and I was already in a lot of pain to begin with. Why?
For the love of God.
Once upon a time, I begrudgingly allowed that God had the authority to test my faith. I thought of the test as a pass/fail thing and really resented Him for it—kind of like a student who silently loathes a teacher because the exams seem unfair. I’ve seen lots of students like this. They “respect” the teacher because on some level they know that they are supposed to, but it’s just a show. They come to class, participate, take notes, do the assignments, and study. They hate every minute of it and who’s to blame if not the teacher? But they simply can’t appreciate the authority the teacher has to put them through their paces—to try to build their character and make them better humans. I did that with the Lord for a long time when I was having miscarriages.
For a year or two before the disastrous events of 2011, the recurring theme of my life was God’s authority. It surfaced in bible studies, it popped off the pages in devotional books, and every scripture rang with the truth that God has the authority “to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13) When I have a problem, even a very painful one, my mom always says, “This is not a surprise to God.” Of course it was no surprise to God in 2011 when one painful experience after another rolled over me. He had prepared me. From the direction of His Holy Spirit, I knew that God in his authority could put me through my paces and make me a better human. Why? What is His good purpose?
For the love of God.
Let me close by saying that this is not the path I would have chosen, but I am so thankful for what God has done with the last two years of my life. Quitting my job had the unintended result of freeing me up so that I could pray, study God’s word and journal for long periods of time while my kids were at school. Every day allowed me a new session—uninterrupted, with no distractions–of grieving and seeking before the Lord. I pressed into Him in ways that I never would have if life had been easier. He used that time to not just ease my pain but prepare me for this new chapter in my life. God may have given me more than I could handle, but He definitely took care to prepare me beforehand so that I would walk through it with Him and try to use it for His glory.
It’s the love that I have for the Lord now that I just can’t explain. I should be angry. I should resent Him for His authority, I should feel persecuted or punished, but I don’t. For a long time before all this happened, especially around the Christmas holidays, I would always pray that God would deepen my love for Him. I guess with all the Christmas hoopla, I didn’t want to lose sight of what it’s all about, and I truly wanted to feel the love that I profess. There’s something about saying goodbye to my dad that did it. It’s supposed to be so final, and yet in Christ, it’s only the beginning. He placed his faith in Jesus for salvation and is with Him today. Simultaneously, I grieve and I’m grateful—the oddest mix of emotions. I love Jesus so much for giving us this hope.
I’m not sure how I’ll react the next time God stacks crisis on top of tragedy on top of heartache for me to deal with. Hopefully I’ll remember what is so clear to me today. I know why I suffer. For the love of God. That’s why.