There are things we say about God and faith that do not come from the Bible itself and that are true nevertheless. Think about the lyrics to our worship songs or good writing on faith-related topics, for instance.
There are also things we say about God and faith that do not come from the Bible itself and are not true.
(Then there are things we say that are from the Bible and yet we make them untrue, but that is for another post.)
At times, when we say this second category of things, we may perpetuate a view of God that can cause us greater pain or confusion as we try to navigate life. And can I just tell you guys, there’s one that’s been irking me lately.
God never gives you more than you can handle.
This is an attempt to distill 1 Corinthians 10:13 (and is probably influenced by Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.) I don’t think it works though, because in its attempt to condense the verse, it gets the meaning wrong. The passage is talking about resisting temptation, and God’s providing a way out for us when we are tempted.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. 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.
In its original context, God is faithful and good to us in temptations.
But the condensed version is generally more widespread and popular. There is even a quote attributed to Mother Theresa, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
The problem with boiling passage down to God will never give you more than you can handle is that it implies that God has brought the negative things into our lives that we are now left to handle. (With him? On our own? ‘Handle’ sure is a defeated sort of word. What about joy, and peace, and life to the full?!?) But living in a sinful world means that terrible things happen.
My own theology makes me seriously uncomfortable with anything that calls into question the infinite goodness of God. I don’t need the world or my life to be free of pain and tragedy for God to be good. But I do need those things to be the product of brokenness and the ‘not yet’ of the redemption, not the direct action of a God I’m supposed to trust my whole life to.
Sorry Mama T, if you really did say that. I promise never to disagree with you theologically again. You’re one of my favorites. Always.
Right now, some people I care about a lot are going through terrible things, to say nothing of my own family healing from losing my daughters. Two families of friends, one friendship very new and the other very old, have children with cancer.
And I’m just bein’ real here friends: if God gave them this disease because he knew they could handle it, then I’m peacin’ out. I’ll take the God who became human like us, died and rose for us, walks and weeps with us, has and will save us.
But I won’t take any god who is not good.
Fortunately, I don’t think I have to make that choice.
Also on the topic of non-scriptural platitudes: When God closes a door he open a window.
This is not from the Bible. It is from the Sound of Music. Don’t even get me started…