The phrase “God will never give you more than you can bear” is not in the Bible. It is a misquote of;
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul reminded them that people often choose to do the wrong thing when they are tempted. However we know that God does but tempt us. If we interpret this scripture in context we see that what Paul is saying is that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. When we are tempted to sin we can’t say that God tempted us,
James 1:13-15 (NKJV)13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
We know how great a true follower of Jesus Paul was yet he faced trials and tribulations all the time, and at one time he admitted that by himself he couldn’t take it anymore.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NKJV)8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,
Let’s admit it we sometimes hurt so much that it is more than we can bear. There is a quote by Dr. Howard Hendricks, “Sometimes life gets so tough that you don’t just hit rock bottom - you crash through it”. Tough times come with living we can’t get around it and we’re not exempt from them.
The reality of Scripture is that God allows us to experience trials, tribulations, and hardships, sometimes even greater than we can bear by ourselves in order to push us toward true faith and submission.
James 1:2-8 (NKJV)2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have itsperfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The way you bear the burdens that come on you speaks volumes about your faith and commitment to trusting God. Paul, that great follower of Jesus asked, no pleaded, three times for God to take a burden from him. God’s answer wasn’t you can bear it Paul because I wouldn’t put more on you than you can bear. His answer was;
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV)7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The Question Then Is What Do You Do When Things Get Too Much To Bare
Jesus tells us to come Him;
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
He tells us to help each other;
Galatians 6:1-5 (NKJV)1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who arespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.
God Doesn’t Expect You To Bear Your Troubles Alone
It’s pretty clear that God doesn’t expect any person to handle everything that comes to them alone. The Scriptures never say that God won’t give you more that you can handle what they do say is that if you trust God He will be with you through it.
Now read the testimony of Lysa TerKeurst who did get more than she could bear.
When God Gives You More Than You Can Handle
There’s no easy way to attach the word cancer to your world and not make all who love you cry. I kept thinking about that statement everyone loves to throw out in times like these: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” But that’s not actually in the Bible.
God does say He won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and that He always provides a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). But that’s not the same as God not giving us more than we can handle.
He sometimes will allow more and more and more. I knew this. And now I was sitting in a pink chair living it. And, as I type these words, I know I’m not the only one who feels they’ve been given more than they can handle. I see the wide-eyed expressions on people all the time. Grief upon grief. Hurt upon hurt. Heartbreak upon heartbreak. Addiction upon addiction. Diagnosis upon diagnosis. Disappointment upon disappointment.
The world is filled with people who are dealt more than they can handle. And, surprisingly, the Bible is also filled with people who were given more than they could handle.
The apostle Paul wrote:
For we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. — 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
God doesn’t expect us to handle this. He wants us to hand this over to Him.
He doesn’t want us to rally more of our own strength. He wants us to rely solely on His strength. If we keep walking around, thinking that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we set ourselves up to be suspicious of God. We know we are facing things that are too much for us. We are bombarded with burdens. We are weighed down with wondering. And we are all trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense. Before we can move forward in a healthy way, we must first acknowledge the truth about our insufficiency.
Cancer is more than I can handle… on my own. I closed my eyes and silently asked God to come and sit in the empty pink chair near me, Art, and the doctor. I needed God to show me His perspective so I could set my perspective. But it didn’t come right away. And that frustrated me. I was filled with fear and questions like, Why this? Why now? Why me?
I could feel my emotions starting to unravel and my resolve to trust God slipping. It was too much. I didn’t want to keep trying so hard to trust God. I was tired of trying to make sense of this life that isn’t supposed to be this way.
I went to bed that night seriously contemplating running away to Montana to hide from my life. I could be a waitress in a breakfast diner. I had been a waitress when I was in my early twenties and loved it. Life was simpler then. Serving up plates of bacon and eggs and toast sounded so appealing. But cancer would follow me. The hurt would follow me. And even my wrestling with whether or not I could trust God would certainly follow me whether I moved to Montana or just crawled in a hole somewhere.
The story I started telling myself was that life would never get any better. My mind became fixated on all that pointed to this season of suffering being my new normal.
I woke up with panicked feelings. I walked around with panicked feelings. I went to bed with panicked feelings.
I knew my thinking had to change.
I couldn’t escape my realities. I had to face them. I had to walk through them. But maybe if I changed my thinking I could trust God in the midst of them.
Thinking about everything I didn’t know wasn’t getting me anywhere. So, I started listing things I did know.
And the main thing I know? I know God is good. I didn’t know the details of God’s good plan, but I could make His goodness the starting place to renew my perspective.
So now let me tell the story of all these recent events using God’s goodness as the central theme. Had things not blown up between Art and me last summer, I never would have hit the pause button on life to go get a mammogram. I would have waited. But because I had a mammogram at that exact time, the doctors caught a cancer that needed to be caught. And because they caught a cancer that needed to be caught, I had every fighting chance to beat this cancer.
You see, we’re all living out a story, but then there’s the story we tell ourselves. We just need to make sure what we’re telling ourselves is the right story. And the right story is, yes, God will give us more than we can handle. But He always has eventual good in mind.
We see more and more unnecessary heartbreak. But God sees the exact pieces and parts that must be added right now to protect us, provide for us, and prepare us with more and more of His strength working through us. We don’t have to like it, but maybe knowing this can help us live through it.
I learned about these very necessary “pieces and parts” one day when a couple of girls introduced themselves while standing in line to get some take-out food at a restaurant near my house. Pauline and Jessica had both read my book Uninvited. We chatted for a minute about what God had been teaching them, and then the topic of what I’d be writing next came up. I told them about this book and the revelation God had given me about dust. Jessica’s eyes lit up. Her mom is a professional potter.
As I shared how, when we place our dust into God’s hands and He mixes it with His living water, the clay that’s formed can then be made into anything, she smiled so big. She’d seen clay being formed into many beautiful things when placed into her mother’s hands. And then she shared something with me that made my jaw drop.
She told me that wise potters not only know how to form beautiful things from clay, but they also know how important it is to add some of the dust from previously broken pieces of pottery to the new clay. This type of dust is called “grog.” To get this grog, the broken pieces must be shattered to dust just right. If the dust is shattered too finely, then it won’t add any structure to the new clay. And if it’s not shattered enough, the grog will be too coarse and make the potter’s hands bleed.
But when shattered just right, the grog dust added to the new clay will enable the potter to form the clay into a larger and stronger vessel than ever before. And it can go through fires much hotter as well. Plus, when glazed, these pieces end up having a much more beautiful, artistic look to them than they would have otherwise.1
Jessica smiled and said, “C’mon, that will preach, right?!”
Oh, it absolutely did. I kept thinking about what Jessica shared and how it might relate to my season of suffering. What if the clay made from all the other dust currently in my life could be strengthened by this newly added broken piece?
And then I read Isaiah 45:9:
Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?
God is making something beautiful out of my life. I know that. So, why question what He sees as the necessary ingredients to make my life stronger and more beautiful than ever? Sure, my diagnosis added some more brokenness, but even this could be used for my good.
I kept reading that verse from Isaiah and decided to do a little investigation into the term potsherd.
A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery.
Interestingly enough, a potsherd was also mentioned in the story of Job when he was inflicted with an awful disease.
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. — Job 2:7-10
A broken potsherd can lie on the ground and be nothing more than a constant reminder of brokenness. It can also be used to continue to scrape us and hurt us even more when kept in our hands.
Or, when placed in our Master’s hands, the Master Potter can be entrusted to take that potsherd, shatter it just right, and then use it in the remolding of me to make me stronger and even more beautiful.
When I understood this, I saw that in all my circumstances God was keeping me moldable while adding even more strength and beauty in the process.
I don’t want to have cancer.
There’s no part of my human brain that thinks cancer is fair for any precious person who receives this diagnosis. God didn’t cause this potsherd reality in my life. It’s the result of living in this broken world between two gardens.
Since I do have cancer, however, I don’t want this broken reality to just be a potsherd wasted on the ground or something I keep in my hand that hurts me more. I must take even this and entrust it to the Lord.
Take this, Lord, and shatter it just right, so I can be made stronger, more beautiful, and able to withstand fires as never before. I believe that You see things I cannot see. And You have eventual good in mind.
This perspective didn’t take away my cancer. But it did take away the feeling I had to figure this out on my own. It took the weight of it all out of my hands and helped me release it to God.
When we hit the place in our lives where we finally realize some things are truly more than we can handle, we will throw our hands up in surrender. And that surrender can happen in one of two ways.
We might surrender to the enemy, giving in to those feelings that this isn’t fair, God isn’t there, and God isn’t good. Or, we can surrender to God. This kind of surrender isn’t giving in; it’s giving up! Giving up carrying the weight of all that’s too much for us to our God, who not only can carry it but use it for good. When we know the truth about the amazing things God can do with the dust and the potsherds of life, we won’t surrender to the negative lies of the enemy. Instead, we will lift our hands to the Potter.
Excerpted from It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst.
So rather than the phrase being “God will never give you more than you can bear” it really should be “The world and Satan will give you more than you can bear, but God will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him!