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“God will never put you through more than you can handle.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. These are words that glide off the vast majority of Christian tongues whenever calamity strikes. They are meant to encourage, and are spoken in all sincerity… The problem is… it’s just not true. I’m about to shatter some “holy grail” of Christian philosophy for a lot of people, but the scripture people are referring to actually says this:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The verse is talking about temptation…. not life or circumstances or tragedy.
We have a promise that we will never be tempted above what we are able to resist. Not that we will never go through something that we cannot bear.
I get it though. We have all heard this statement, so we all parrot it in good faith that what we are speaking is God’s Word…. but it isn’t.
Several weeks ago I ended up in the hospital after a sudden snap in my skull unleashed the most brutal and unbearable pain of my life. We kept calling it a “migraine” because the word indicates a heightened severity, but this pain was another class completely. I’ve had migraines, and this was no migraine. In fact, there is nothing I could compare the pain to. It was by far the worst pain I have ever experienced, and can ever imagine. The severe headache went on for 4 weeks straight. Night and day without reprieve. I lived on pain medication that barely took the edge off. None of the powerful drugs offered in the hospital touched it. I barely survived from dose to dose, living for the mere moments of relief I would have before it began raging all over again.
There was a moment in the hospital when the pain in my head was so horrendous, and the pressure was so intense that I felt like my skull would burst open. I could smell the blood in my head, and feel my brain convulsing… I thrashed back and forth on the bed unable to withstand what I was experiencing. I saw the arms of death reach over my face as if they would lay their hands on my head… I was in so much pain, and so weak that thinking was beyond my ability… but somehow, from somewhere I was able to muster up just enough strength to think, “In the name of Jesus, you will not lay your hands on me.” I believe God intervened at that moment, and gave me the strength to call on Him.
The next several days I was in a medication induced sleep- waking frequently with severe pain only to cry out for more pain medicine, and fall back asleep when it was administered. I became excessively weak. I lost coordination. I could not navigate. My eyes became terribly blurry. The earth seemed to be sliding beneath me. I could barely walk on my own two feet. Seven feet to the restroom and back left me collapsed in a trembling heap. When I moved at all, my head spun into violent pain. When I went home, I continued to experience the same terrible level of pain. If someone tried to have a conversation with me, or a light was turned on, or if something moved, it triggered the most violent horrid headache. My brain convulsed, I went into severe vomiting spells, and then trembled uncontrollably. My brain ceased to operate like it should. I could not process the slightest things and the world became a terrifying place that I could not function in. Many times in those weeks I got up in the middle of the night- unable to take pain medicine because it wasn’t time yet, with no way to cope, other than to call on the name of Jesus. I just prayed and cried. I worshiped God for every good and wonderful thing about His character, and thanked Him for every blessing I could think of. As that pain ravaged my brain, I thanked Him for all the pain He endured on the Cross for me. I thanked Him for sparing me from the even greater pain and anguish of hell: a punishment I rightfully deserved under the penalty of sin.
After about 4 weeks, the pain reduced to a constant moderate headache. I was able to wean myself off the nasty drugs, and have been relying pretty heavily on Tylenol. For the past several weeks now, I have remained at home, still unable to function with everyday life. I still have random bursts of severe pain that can drop me to my knees. I still have a hard time concentrating and following things. My neck has been stiff with excessive pain. I deal with all manner of shooting nerve pain throughout my head. My relief, though it is leaps and bounds better, is still very temporary and fragile. It can be shattered with one wrong move. Some days are better than others. I am beyond grateful for the improvement God has granted me, but I am a long way from “normal” and I yearn desperately to get there.
We still do not know what happened. Since I am expecting, doctors are avoiding the tests. There are a series of theories, all of them frightening, but all we can do is wait.
I said all that to say this though. There is no special rule for Christians that makes us exempt from things that are unbearable. Life proves otherwise. When a loved one dies and your grief is so immense that you collapse to the floor and your reactions are beyond your control…. it’s because it is more than you can bear. When you cry out for help when you are in such tremendous pain, for doctors or medicine, or anyone to help you…. it’s because it is more than you can bear. When your circumstances keep you up at night, pacing the floor… it’s because it’s more than you can bear… When a child is lying in a hospital bed, their life hanging precariously in the balance… that is more than a person can bear. When someone’s sin leaves your life in ruins and sorrow…. that is more than you can bear…
When everything is so far beyond you that you lift your frail voice to Heaven and call on the name of Jesus…. it’s because it is more than you can bear.
And that’s the point.
We were never supposed to be able bear everything. We were not designed to be strong enough to handle whatever life throws our way. If we were, why would we need a Savior?
I have experienced something in these last 6 weeks that is more than I could bear. I know because I had to call on doctors, rely on my husband, take medicine just to cope…. and look up and cry out to my God because I knew that when I couldn’t do it anymore, He was big enough to handle it for me.
I don’t know how many times I lifted up my voice and told Him “Lord…. I can’t do this anymore…. I need You… I need You to help me.” And every word of that was true. I couldn’t. I needed Him.
The truth is… we are weak, and He is strong, and that’s how it was meant to be.
Matthew 11:28 says:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
1 Peter 5:7 says:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
The whole glorious picture of salvation and our walk with Christ is that we need a Savior that is bigger than us…. Someone that can handle the big stuff…. Someone that can do the things we can’t do. From the very beginning of our relationship with Him, that fact is established when He saved us from sin and punishment that we were powerless to overcome… So I’m not sure why we develop this idea that somewhere He makes us so strong that we don’t need Him.
We always need Him.
I could never do this on my own. I am not a super hero, and we shouldn’t be making our fellow Christians feel like they ought to be either.
I always need Him.