This may come as a surprise to most of you, but… I love grocery shopping.
Well, actually wait. Let me rephrase that. I love food.
In all seriousness though, I love getting to stroll through the aisles of Publix while basking in the vastness of flavored ice creams, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and super unhealthy breakfast cereals. I love the smells of freshly baked breads and birthday cakes in the bakery section, and I love the beautiful sights of the rainbow colored fruits in the produce area.
But most of all, I love trying to carry all of my grocery bags from my car to my flat in one trip – even if it means sacrificing a groin muscle or a pinky finger in the process. I know it’s silly – but I do it every single time, and every single time I am left with bruises on my thighs and painful red indent marks across my forearms. Some would say, carrying all of those grocery bags in one trip is more than I can handle… but I say… try me.
I enjoy testing limits and pushing boundaries – whether it involves carrying insane amounts of groceries at one time, slide-tackling on the soccer field, or …skydiving. But when it comes to my faith, I’ve found that I like to play it safe. Getting out of my comfort zone when it comes to trying new foods, traveling the world, or jumping out of a plane is pretty easy for me to do. But trusting God? That’s always been hard. In fact, sometimes it seems nearly impossible.
There’s a really overused and badly misinterpreted cliché that’s been spread around churches all over the globe and it goes something like this: God will never give you more than you can handle. Just to clarify, that is not a verse in the bible. If you don’t believe me, google it. It’s just a catchy slogan that makes your insides feel all warm and bubbly when you repeat it over and over again to yourself. It’s a little phrase that encourages us to blame the devil or lose faith when we are faced with suffering, hardship, loss, or a situation that seems too terrible to wrap our heads around. And it’s a saying that has caused many believers to walk away from Christianity all together. Why? Because it’s a saying that is simply untrue.
It’s taken me a while to learn this, but God does not want us to find our confidence and our hope in our own human strength. He does not want us to depend on ourselves to “handle” things. God does not want you to live within your fleshly limitations and within the confines of your comfort zone. Nope. The Lord wants us surrendered – wholly and completely. He wants us to seek Him for help when we’re faced with the daily challenges the world throws our way. He wants to be our strength, our joy, our hope, and our peace. He wants to do what we can’t. We were not meant to handle things like cancer, car accidents, rape, divorces, death, and diseases on our own. We weren’t meant to handle break ups, lost keys, addictions, tooth aches, and overdue bills on our own either. More than anything, the Lord wants to be our Healer, our Provider, and our Protector – He wants us to cast our burdens and our anxieties onto Him instead of trying to cling to them and deal with them all by ourselves. Our purpose and our identity do not come from the obstacles we are able to overcome (or not overcome) in life – our purpose and identity come from the One who does the overcoming on our behalf. We are who we are… because He is Who He is.
Several years ago I attended a discipleship training school that was meant to push me and challenge me physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. It was like a bible bootcamp on steroids that taught me about leadership, teamwork, faith, grace, and repentance. During one of the weekly challenges, I was forced to sleep in the woods with my teammates for 3 nights during a “persecution camp experience.” No toilet, no bed, no change of clothes, no wi-fi, and barely any food. I was panicking. I cried and wanted to go home. It was hard and it stripped me of every comfort I knew. I felt weak and empty and disgusting and alone. Everything hurt, I smelled bad, and I almost missed the entire point of the challenge because I wouldn’t stop complaining about my situation. I am going to be completely honest here – it was more than I could handle… but it wasn’t more than God could handle. You see, on my own I would have bailed on the challenge and gone home to my comfy bed, my hot shower, and my loving parents. I would have said, I’m done ya’ll, and gotten up from my little hut made of shrubs and palm branches and walked away. But God… But God stepped in as He always does and He empowered me to keep going. Once I surrendered my weaknesses and my fears and my “inabilities” over to Him, once I realized that I couldn’t complete this challenge without His help, and once I discovered that I didn’t have all the answers… I was able – because He is able.
As Christians our perspective needs to shift from “me” to “He.” When I take my eyes off myself and off of my problems and focus them on the All-Powerful Creator God of the Universe instead – anything is possible and any situation can be handled. But it only works when I live a life fully surrendered in humble trust and obedience to Him that I can handle anything life throws my way. Now, quick disclaimer: Life doesn’t always turn out the way we think it will. Not every situation has a happy ending or an ending that we will be able to understand with our human brains. The cancer doesn’t always go into remission, the premature baby doesn’t always survive, and the final exam doesn’t always get passed with flying colors. Our version of “handled” doesn’t always match God’s version of “handled” – but that’s because our perspective of “what’s best” doesn’t always match God’s perspective of “what’s best” either. His perspective is eternal and all-knowing – ours is faulty, biased, and limited. This means that we are left with a choice – will we walk by faith and trust Him fully in the midst of the hard stuff or will we stay put inside our comfort zones and live in fear?
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT Paul writes, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
This verse is incredibly important. Why? Remember that terrible cliché I told you about earlier? Well, that cliché was derived from this verse. So let me break it down for you. What is this verse actually saying? What is God actually trying to teach us?
Does this mean we will never be faced with challenges or temptations or sorrows or difficulties? Nope. In fact, Jesus promises us in John 16:33 that we will be faced will all of those things. Does this mean that God will never ever give us more than we can handle? Sorry, nope.
However, it does mean that when we are faced with seemingly difficult situations, when we are faced with trauma, evil, or pain that make our hearts break and our spirits ache, and when we feel like there’s no way forward and we’re barely hanging on for dear life – God can and will make a way. When we are faced with something that we can’t handle on our own – God promises to be there to handle it with us… and for us if we choose to let Him.
So my challenge (for all of us) is this. Let’s try to trust Him – just like He wants us to. Let’s allow Him to fight our battles, and let’s allow Him to be our strength when we’re weary. Let’s give Him our weaknesses, our fears, and our doubts. Let’s allow Him to handle what we can’t. Let’s choose to let go of our burdens, our anxieties, and our worries so we can hold onto Him instead.
Because whether we realize it or not, He’s the One who has been holding on to us…