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"God won't give you more than you can handle." Oh. I see.

One woman's quest to see if she agrees.

By Barb Stanley

I smiled and let out a breath that I hadn’t known I had been holding in. It was the end of a very long, long, difficult week, and for the past hour I had been taping an interview with a special guest for the Wonderful Works Talks that would be released a few days later. It was the last thing on my list that I needed to finish up before I could finally rest and try to recoup. I was ready. And more than that I was grateful. First because our guest, Sheila Smith from OCALI, who has a very busy schedule, graciously made time for us on a Friday night to share her vast knowledge with us. Second, because something that never happens actually did happen, I was having a good hair day and it was going to be memorialized on film for all time. That felt miraculous all on its own. And so, there I was smiling, breathing, and waving goodbye to Sheila, as I leaned over to hit the “Stop Recording” button on our Zoom Meeting. And that is when I realized, my bad week was still going strong…

Let me back track for a minute. My luck had turned earlier in the day, when I received a phone call from MicroCenter, or the place I like to refer to as the ‘please, please, please, fix my computer thingy’ store, where I was informed that though my hard drive had crashed on me at home, it still had enough strength left to crash again at the store, and most of my files were unretrievable. Ouch. This had not been a good way to end the week, but to be honest it was only one of the super difficult things that I encountered this week. In fact, the entire week was filled to the brim with difficulty and was beginning to feel pretty hard to handle. And that got me thinking…

What exactly does it mean when we say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” because I wasn’t really feeling that statement, and I’m guessing you have had seasons where you weren’t feeling that either. So, I decided to do a little investigating on this particular saying and find out - do I actually believe that it’s true.

I went straight to the source - The Bible. Here is the verse that this saying is based on:

“No temptation has overtaken you, except what is common to mankind. 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.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13

To quote my son, who no matter what you tell him will always respond with “Oh. I see.” Now that I have read this verse again with a fresh perspective, all I can say is, “Oh. I see.” There’s more than meets the eye here, and I realized that all the other times I have read this verse I had missed two important points.

First, it starts out with - No TEMPTATION .... Which, stop here, was the first point I had missed. Before today, I had always thought of temptation as something that I knew I was being tempted by - like a delicious Mountain Dew (which - fun fact - has been ruined by same son who informed me that it has 16 teaspoons of sugar in it - ‘which is why you aren’t hitting your weight loss goals, mom.’) But, back to the point, I have always thought about this verse in terms of what I am tempted by and what I can do to relieve this temptation, such as grab a Gatorade instead (only 9 teaspoons of sugar - will still not be fitting into skinny jeans). But now that I read it again, I see it differently.

Temptation isn’t just about the things that we know we want that aren’t good for us like - movie theater popcorn, double cheeseburgers, and strawberry milkshakes (yes, there is a theme here). Temptation is also about the things that are not good for us that we often never admit that we actually want, like to blame others, to become stuck in despair, and to give up when things get tough. These are temptations too, and they often rear up when life becomes overwhelming - when we feel that we have more than we can handle. But the Bible says we are covered here too. And when I read the verse again with this new understanding of temptation, I saw things differently. What about you? How are you tempted to respond when life gets hard? Read the verse again from this viewpoint. What is the verse saying to you now?

“No TEMPTATION has overtaken you, except what is common to mankind. 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.” - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Oh, You see? What I think it is saying is that God gets us. He knows that life can be tough, even overwhelming at times, and He knows that this is often when temptation, like giving up or getting stuck or craving Mountain Dew, will sneak up on us. When this happens, instead of shaming us for our weakness, He will provide a way out so that we can keep going. But there’s a second important promise that this verse gives us too, and I don’t want you to miss it.

But when you are tempted, HE will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What this means is that when temptation comes, when difficulty comes, we are not left on our own to find our own way out. No. God will be there too. As we try to handle the tough stuff, we are promised that we will never have to handle it alone. Pause here because this is big. Think about trying to carry a whole lot of stuff or even just one thing that is super heavy. Can you do it alone? I can’t. But we can do it with help. And this is true for the tough stuff in our lives too, like loss and suffering. There will always be a way to endure, but that way will never require us to be fully on our own.

Which brings us back to the next part of my very long, long, difficult week:

With my smile now frozen on my face and my hand mechanically moving up and down in a sorry imitation of waving goodbye, I hoped that Sheila would not be able to see the panic in my eyes, as I realized that the interview she graciously carved out time for - never actually got recorded. AHHHHHHHHH!

I ended the Zoom meeting and shut my laptop. I sat dumbfounded for a moment going over the day’s events - interview gone, hard drive gone, my sanity gone. And then I did the only thing that I could do when I was in a wild-eyed stupor. I grabbed my coat, my dog, and my phone and headed out into the dark, cold evening to try to walk off my despair. And that is when I texted a friend this: “I have had the worst week ever. Are you available?” And this is what happened next. She called me right back. She listened to my tales of woe and offered encouragement. She let me talk for a very long time, never once hurrying me along. By the time I was done rambling, I felt better. With her help, I had found my way out of despair. I also had realized that something strange was going on with this phone call. My friend’s house seemed to be really noisy. “What’s going on at your house?” I asked.

Turned out nothing was going on at her house because she wasn’t home. She was at a professional hockey game with her family, and when I texted “Are you available?” she easily could have said no and made a mental note to check on me the next day. But instead she left her seat, missed out on all that great goal-tending action, and stood by herself, cold, and crowded, inside the sports arena food court patiently being there for me, because she knew (as God knows) that sometimes life gives us more than we can handle on our own, but it is never more than we can carry together.

And so going back to the original question. Do I believe that the old saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” is true. I would tell you this. Yes, I believe it is true, but I think it should be rewritten like this “God won’t give us more than we can handle, together.” Because, we are never truly alone. Many times we have people in our lives who show us the way out, but even when those people can’t be found, God promises to always be there no matter what. And He is. So when those weeks (or longer) come that feel like more than you can handle on your own, remember this. You don’t have to.

Oh. I see. Hard things happen, but we can make it through when we have help. Which is a lot like how the story of my very long, long, difficult week ends.

I smiled and waved goodbye to Sheila. It was Sunday evening, the official end to the world’s longest week. I was not having a good hair day, but that was OK. I leaned over and hit the “Stop Recording” button on our Zoom meeting and this time was greeted by the world’s most lovely computer voice stating “Recording has ended.” Sheila, in her most awesomeness, had graciously given us more time and rerecorded her interview so that we would not miss our deadline. The second interview was even better than the first one. My hard drive was still gone, and the hundred other difficult things I had dealt with earlier in the week were still there, but as I let out the breath that I hadn’t known that I had been holding, I realized something. Life is unpredictable, sometimes stressful, but it is still good because God won’t give us more than we can handle, together.

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To see our interview with Sheila Smith on Disability Inclusion and Challenging Behavior - Best Practices for the Classroom click here.

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