Many people have said this inspirational quote to me throughout my life; many of them were believers trying to encourage me while I was going through a difficult time. However, I have found no evidence to support this statement from the Bible. I’ve scoured the Scriptures for a verse that says this phrase or anything similar to it and the closest thing I could find is that God provides a way specifically out of temptation, which certainly can be difficult to handle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures the reader that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” So, this statement of God promising to never overwhelm me is only true in regards to the temptation to sin. And to clarify, since God is holy, He is not the one that tempts us or causes us to sin because He is incapable of doing so. He hates sin and wants to help us endure against it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 shows us that He provides the ways for us to resist and/or run away from whatever it is we are tempted by.
A quick search showed me that others have arrived at similar conclusions. Articles written by more educated and wiser people than myself also analyze the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I will list these articles in the footnotes below. My favorite was this article from the Biblical Counseling Coalition by Colin Mattoon. His response to the cliché we are examining is that “this statement is untrue and unhelpful.” To emphasize his point, the author gives the example of when Paul experienced so many troubles while in Asia, that he and his companions despaired and ready to die.
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. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”2 Corinthians 1:8-11
If we look at Paul’s story, we can see that he was completely overwhelmed by the trials he was going through. I was surprised that Paul would ever say something like this because I knew that he also wrote “for the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardship, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) But even the apostle Paul was given things that he could not handle. Fortunately, he also provided the reason for why he and other believers (us included) are given burdens too great for us to bear. It is so that we learn to not rely on our own strength, but turn to the Lord’s strength so that He gets all the glory.
God frequently calls His people to accomplish tasks that are way out of their capabilities because He wants to demonstrate His glory through weak and broken humans. The Bible is replete with examples of mighty works being accomplished through completely unqualified and unable people. The following table lists jut a few.
|Scripture reference||Who was called and why||Human odds stacked against them||How God worked through that person|
|Exodus 17:8-16||Moses was to hold up his arms throughout the duration of battle between the Hebrews and Amalekites. As long as he did, then Israel prevailed.||Moses’ arms became tired and he lowered them, but when he did, the Amelikites would overtake the Israelites.||Aaron and Hur held Moses’ arms up when he grew too weary and God orchestrated the battle for the Israelites to be victorious.|
|Judges 6-7||Gideon, the least in his family, was told by God to conquer a formidable Midian army.||Gideon wanted to take the 32,000 in the Israelite army and was doubtful when God reduced it to 300 men.||God wanted an incredibly small amount of men to defeat Midian so that Israel wouldn’t boast of their own strength, but attribute the victory to God.|
|1 Samuel 17||David was the youngest and smallest of his family.||David was an inexperienced young man challenging a warrior-giant to combat for the freedom of Israel.||The Lord caused the stone that David threw to sink into Goliath’s forehead, allowed for David to complete the giant’s death, and subdue the Philistine army.|
|1 Corinthians 2:4||Paul was sent to share the Gospel with the Corinthians.||Paul admitted to be weak and fearful, and his speech and message message “were not in plausible words of wisdom.”||The Holy Spirit imparted wisdom and power to the Corinthians so that they would believe the Gospel that Paul shared with them.|
All of these people were flawed, weak, with insurmountable odds stacked against them. God consistently put his weak, but chosen, people into impossible circumstances to demonstrate that it is through HIS might alone that they were able to achieve what they did. He doesn’t ask us to “handle” anything, but to lay our burdens at His feet because only HE is able to handle them. This harkens back to Paul’s declaration so that “no one may boast” from Ephesians 2:8-9. It takes the pressure off of us to struggle through the valley and puts it squarely on the shoulders of Him who is walking with us.
So, what could our response be to someone who declares the statement “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle”? If there is time, maybe talking about one of the above events in the Bible will be encouraging. Maybe we will only have a short amount of time to respond. We could try to say something along the lines of “God is using this circumstance to demonstrate His great and glorious might.” It might also be good to quote 2 Corinthians 4:7 which says “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.“
There could also be the case that we might not be able to respond at all. In this instance, we can be content to think about the truth of God’s word: that God works in and through weak, struggling people to bring them closer to himself and to bring glory to his name.
- I love this quote from Lisa TerKeurst’s article: “He doesn’t want us to rally more of our own strength. He wants us to rely solely on His strength.”
- “God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle” by Mitch Chase on the Gospel Coalition website
- John Piper wrote a response entitled “Will God Ever Give Us More Than We Can Handle?“