My sister posted this little gem on her facebook page recently. My brother saw it and shared it. It’s not the first time either of them have posted something along these lines. I desperately wanted to comment, but I knew it was futile. On the one hand, I’m glad they have some sense that God is ultimately in control. That’s a very good thing. Unfortunately, if you look at this little quip carefully, you’ll see the problem that plagues my entire family. One that I have broken free from on an intellectual level, but struggle to implement every day of my life. No, it’s not the misuse of the hyphen. Although, I have to say, hyphens and I do have a fairly touchy relationship.
The problem is a complete sense of self-reliance.
Let me explain. But, first, I’ll have to give a little background info.
The Bible does not ever say that God will not give you anything you can’t handle. The closest is comes is 1 Corinthians 10:13. This verse says that God will not allow you to suffer a temptation that you cannot handle without providing a way for you to escape. Sort of the same thing. But not.
While difficult situations may be a temptation to sin, they aren’t necessarily. Maybe they just suck. Maybe they’re just a cause of great suffering. If that’s the case, the Bible never says that God won’t give you more suffering than you can take. After all, what’s the threshold on suffering? If it’s physical suffering, I guess death is more than we can take, but we were born to die, so that doesn’t really mean much. I don’t mean to sound flippant. I’m just trying to point out that suffering sucks and there doesn’t seem to be any real limit to how much of it we can take. Even if there were a limit, God never promises that he won’t allow us to suffer past a certain point.
(Can I just pause to say how merciful it is that God will never allow us to suffer a temptation that we can not conquer! That’s not the point of this post, but thank you God for your infinite mercy!)
So, are we just condemned to suffer at the hands of an uncaring God? Certainly not. The great apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12 he tells about a time he begged the Lord to remove his suffering, but God did not. God explained to Paul that His grace was enough to sustain Paul through anything. (2 Cor 12:9) And that’s the key.
All suffering can be endured, even great physical suffering that leads to death (i.e. the martyrs), with God’s grace.
Did you catch that last part?
The key is God’s grace.
God’s grace sustains us through whatever suffering we may endure, be it emotional, spiritual, or physical. We likely will encounter some suffering in our lives that we can’t endure. But, with God’s grace, suffering takes on new meaning.
Naturally, this leads to all kinds of other questions like why God allows suffering to exist and what the heck grace is anyway, both of which will have to wait until another time.
My point is, we’re not made to journey through this life alone. We’re going to face trials and obstacles and hardships. Some days we might be close to breaking. But if we’re surrounding ourselves with God’s grace, we won’t break. Quite the contrary. Paul goes on to tell us that it is through our weakness that we are made strong. (2 Cor 12:10)
My friend is a breast cancer survivor and she sums up her entire experience by saying that God had to knock her flat on her back (referring to the extensive time she spent in hospital beds) so that the only direction she could look was up (to God). Through her suffering, she came to understand the meaning of this verse.
So back to our family problem. We’re a “suck it up and deal with it” kind of people. We’re people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We’re definitely a family who believes in (although would never say so candidly) social darwinism. If we have problems, we work them out. On our own.
I can’t ever recall seeing my parents ask for help. Not the, “Hey, I’m really overwhelmed, could you watch the kids for me while I catch up on some housework?” kind of help and not the fall to your knees and put your problems in the hands of Jesus kind of help. We prayed together. And we prayed about problems. But the trust was missing. Praying about our problems didn’t change anything. It wasn’t a surrender. It was more like complaining.
We never learned the lesson that my friend learned. We kept trying to fix everything ourselves. Make it work out. Play the bad hand that we’d been dealt. We never leaned on God’s grace, placing full trust in his perfect plan, and allowed him to guide us through the turbulence of life.
As I said earlier, I understand the significance of this intellectually, and at times I succeed in letting God be God despite the suffering I may endure, but most the time I find myself standing alone in a puddle of tears before I have the sense to remember that this suffering, like all suffering, has a purpose, and that with God’s grace I can overcome it.
That’s the lesson I wanted to share with my siblings when I saw their silly little quote on Facebook. That’s a lesson that can give their lives new perspective and change their attitudes. They’re not suffering because God is mean or because he doesn’t fully understand what they can handle. He’s their creator; no one knows what they can handle better than he does. While they may indeed be suffering, God wants to help them get through it. They just need to ask him for his grace and trust in his perfect plan.