“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” she said. That’s what her son told her as they waited on test results for his baby girl. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard often by well-meaning people who are hurting or trying to extend hope to others. And it certainly does sound hopeful—biblical, even. But here’s the thing. It’s not true.
Four years ago, we received more than we could handle.
Wrapping things up at the end of a full harvest week, my farmer husband Mike misstepped off a grain cart. An eight-foot drop to the ground with all weight landing on one leg makes for a nasty break. The official diagnosis after the accident was a transverse oblique fracture of the left femur. The good news was that he didn’t hit his head or get buried by corn. The bad news included an intensive surgery, six weeks with no weight on his leg, and a significant change in harvest plans.
What do you do when you’ve received more than you can handle?
Though I’d like to tell you that I immediately open my hands in surrender and fully depend on the sufficiency of God’s grace, more often than not I tighten my grip. Worry white-knuckles the situation, anxiety twists it into knots, and fear magnifies it. And even when I know the Burden-Bearer will carry it for me, I clench it tighter still, determined to fix it.
Our grandsons had the same thought. Without any prompting from their parents, Landon (4½ years) and Jackson (2½ years) showed up at the hospital with their plastic power tools. They were going to “fix” Papa. But things didn’t go as planned. And after a short visit, they kissed him goodbye and started to cry. They sobbed through the hospital corridor, down the elevator, and to the parking lot. Papa was still broken and it broke them.
It was more than they could handle.
And it’s not because they were preschoolers. It’s because they are people. People like you and me who are desperate for someone bigger. Someone who is able to do what we can’t do, or even think to ask or imagine.
Two months later we enjoyed Saturday morning pancakes at a local diner with those same grandboys. And mid-meal, Landon started bragging about his dad. “Papa, my dad is stronger than you.” Mike agreed. Hard not to when his crutches were propped against the wall.
“He can lift you,” boasted Landon. “He can lift a car. He can lift this whole building!” And while Landon elaborated on his dad’s strength, this children’s song popped in my mind: My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do—for YOU! (Ruth Harms Calkin)
Landon’s childlike confidence in his earthly dad directed my heart to our Father God who cannot be exaggerated. And as I surrendered my grip, I became keenly aware that God did not loosen his grip on me.
No matter the scope, size, or sequence of our struggle, here is hope in the hard: God can handle it. No grief is too weighty, no problem too big, no person too far gone. He carries us close. He holds us fast. Whatever the heartache, God is bigger still.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you,” (Isaiah 46:4).
“Your right hand will hold me fast,” (Psalm 139:10).
Writer’s note: All verses are quoted from the New International Version (NIV).