When Life Hands You More Than You Can Handle

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Let me state the obvious: Life is full of challenges.

Perhaps you are familiar with the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, a list of potential stress points. Some of these are greater stress points than others, and the more areas of stress you are facing, the greater potential for stress. Any one of these stress points can be a challenge, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming.

At this point, I can hear some deeply sincere Christian saying, “Oh, but those challenges are not overwhelming. God will never give you more than you can handle. The Bible says so.”

Other well-meaning people try to encourage us on the hard days by telling us, “God only places great challenges to those who can handle it.”

Let me just stop the conversation right there. Well-intentioned? Perhaps. But true? No.

One passage often gets quoted in times of trouble, but it’s usually misapplied.

“No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Notice the subject: temptation. Paul was not addressing challenges, difficulties, and stress points. He was addressing the reality of when temptation comes knocking on the door.

But hear the good news in his words. Temptation may come—and it will!—but it cannot force you to give in and sin. And God will always—always!—provide an escape plan. God knows your personal limits. He does not want you to sin. He’s not throwing a temptation in your path to test you or try to trip you up (Jas. 1:13). Quite the opposite. He wants to help you avoid giving in to the temptation.

“For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).

So, when temptation is staring you in the face, look around you. Look for God’s way of escape. For me, it’s often a Scripture that comes to mind. A friend who calls. An alternative activity that presents itself. Look. Trust Jesus. There is a way to avoid giving in to the temptation.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

But what about all those difficulties?  Is there a way to avoid those? Not necessarily, but you don’t have to face them alone. In fact, God does not want you to face them alone.

And it’s OK to be honest and admit they feel overwhelming! The apostle Paul did. Paul’s stress level had to be off the chart. He referred to his afflictions, hardships, difficulties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and times of hunger (2 Cor. 6:4-5). Earlier in this letter, he said,

“We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed​—​beyond our strength​—​so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

Don’t tell Paul God wouldn’t give him more than he could handle. He knew better. But Paul also knew why God would allow such overwhelming circumstances. It was to draw Him closer to Christ.

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again” (vv. 9-11).

We do not have the strength within ourselves to deal with our circumstances—and God doesn’t expect us to. He wants us to rely on Him! So, look to Him and trust Him to walk with you when the road is hard. In His teaching about the vine and branches, Jesus revealed  a sobering truth …

“You can do nothing without me” (John 15:5)

… and a powerful promise of His abiding presence.

“The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit.”

When you feel overwhelmed, look to the One who is never overwhelmed.

“When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:2).

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Banner photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash.

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