One of the most well fortified catch-phrases of popular theology runs something along the lines of: “God will never place more on us than we can bear.” or “God will never allow us to go through more than we can handle.”
This is simply not true. Stick with me for a moment and I’ll attempt to show you with Scripture why it’s not true.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase. In past days, I used it myself a number of times. It sounds really good on the surface, and is intended to be encouraging: “Don’t worry. You can make it through. You have the strength. God will never place on you more than you can bear.”
In a nutshell, here’s the problem with that snippet of theology:
It elevates OUR personal strength to a place that should be occupied by GOD’S strength.
Notice the subtle teaching that is present there: “YOUR strength is enough for everything you come to. God will protect you from the most difficult things, but otherwise YOU are the one getting yourself through.” That’s what is being said. It paints a picture of a God who is separate from us, shielding us from the worst of things, but otherwise not involved in getting us through. WE bear the load. We handle the things that happen to us.
This is not what the Bible teaches. The Scripture teaches, rather, that God’s power is infinite, and there will never be anything we encounter that is beyond HIS strength. Therefore, we need to rely on Him.
Some of the most clear passages of Scripture concerning this were written by Paul – a man upon whom were placed difficulties of such extraordinary gravity that we might be overwhelmed simply reading about them. Consider these several passages:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so 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. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
- Notice what Paul says about what God allowed: it was “far beyond our ability to endure….” That sentence alone is enough to show the falseness of “God will never place on us more than we can handle.” He allowed Paul and his companions to go through FAR more than they could endure.
- And look at the REASON God allowed more than they could endure: “…so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God…” This is exactly opposite from “God will never place on us more than we can handle.” What Paul says directs us to NOT rely on ourselves and our own strength. What pop(ular)-theology teaches is that our strength is supreme and we will never have to rely on God, because we will have the strength to get through whatever comes our way.
- Pop-theology leaves no room for the fact that we need to be DELIVERED. If we never came against anything that was too much for us, then there would be no reason to “…set our hope that [God] will continue to deliver us…”.
- Next verse –>
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
- Paul’s intent and message is to show the power of God, not his own power. He says that they are continually put in situations where they should not be able to survive or continue through, in order “…to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
- Again, this is directly contrary to “God will never allow us to go through more than we can handle.” If we never met anything that WE could not handle, then why would the power of God be necessary in our lives? If our strength was sufficient for every circumstance that God allowed us to go through, then where would the “all-surpassing power from God” be shown?
- Next verse –>
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
- These verses may be the most explicit. God PURPOSELY sends a thorn in Paul’s flesh to torment him. Even though Paul pleads with God to take it away, God refuses. Why? 2 reasons: First – Paul needed to remain humble. Second – Paul needed to trust in the power of God.
- “God will never put on us more than we can handle.” has the tendency to make us conceited – “MY great strength got me through.” God works in just the opposite way. He purposely gives us what is too much for us to bear so that we might be humbled and see that we NEED Him to get us through.
- “…[God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” What does that mean, exactly? It means that when WE attempt to do things in our own strength, and thereby refuse to rely on the power of God, we hinder our connection to God’s power. When, instead, we give ourselves up completely to God’s power and recognize that we can do NOTHING apart from HIS strength, then He will more fully let His power work through us.
- We don’t diminish the power of God when we refuse to rely on it, but God will not work where He is shunned. If you refuse to rely on His power and constantly trust in your own instead, He will allow it. The power of God will be like a leaky faucet to you, stopped up by your conceit.
- If, however, you realize that you are weak, and rely fully on God to accomplish through you whatever He designs, then the power of God will work through you like a gushing river cascading over Niagara Falls.