October 09, 2010

God will never give you more than you can handle

Disclaimer: no intention to be snide or belittling to anyone's particular religious beliefs is intended here. I absolutely prescribe to the notion that anyone's religious beliefs are a vital and autonomous part of our rights as individuals to express ourselves.

God will never give you more than you can handle.

Stop saying that.

This time , I must respond, somewhat out of character, to the many, many times I have seen people write the phrase above,  without the usual burrowing attempt at understanding the depth of issues I wish to address.

Even people who have gone through hardship, are dealing with a disabled child,  caring for a terminally ill family member, will come out with that brazen statement full of intent to impart hope and serenity to our outlook on life, if not our lives themselves.
Please stop.

However you want to call the dynamic forces at work, be it God or Buddha, Allah or The Great Spirit, for every one example you can give of that wonderfully thriving family with their diverse children (read: disabled), or that young person, faced with death by illness who found wisdom and courage, I will give you examples of people who failed. Failed to come to terms with, committed suicide, broke down and became shells of their former selves, lived in agony and denial until their deaths, confused and distraught or without the intuition to introspectively find their inner guide to sanctified bliss.

Life is hard. Harder for some. Unbearably hard for even fewer. And it could be worse. Life goes on. We move along, even partly disabled ourselves as caregivers, the cost is tremendous. Valiant statements to the contrary, "I wouldn't change a thing!", we get hurt and it damages us, these experiences, and the damage is permanent. But don't confuse the continued momentum of our lives with the concept that we move forward because "God only gave us as much as we can handle". We were given MORE than we can handle, it's just that even when you get broken, some people get up anyway, they don't stay down. Is that your "never more than you can handle"?

I believe failure IS an option, "never more than you can handle" somehow perpetuates the idea that you can never fail. Really, O righteous people? Really?  So I never need to ask for help since I am given only as much as I can handle?

I don't need to think in terms of,  "this is God's plan". I am not interested in His plan. Don't read anger, resentment or disappointment into that statement. Probably I could not understand it if I tried. He made His decision so I will just let that be and get busy dealing with my decisions (all part of his plan).

"God will never give you more than you can handle" is revisionistic history; looking back, after having weathered the storm, you say, "well I made it! I guess everything is OK now." What poppycock. Why does everything have to be OK? Why can't it be terrible? Is there no terrible in the world that is worth having? Or in other words does terrible hold no value?

God will never give you more than you can handle sounds like "pillow Angels" to me; a euphemism with all the right motivation but that somehow sticks in my throat. My life challenges me and thus I am motivated to go up against that challenge. If I thought for one moment that Segev's struggle to live was defined by the fact that he and I will never face any situation that would overwhelm us then I would feel comfortable knowing that life was somehow contained.

But it isn't. It bursts out at the seems and this philosophical concept of containment stated in the title is a false sense of security that is dangerous. I say dangerous because it is exactly when we push ourselves, in action as well as understanding, that we reach that place where we never were before. A new place. A place that allows us a better perspective, even if we have arrived at this new place by falling there.

You can push until you break, it's true. It has happened to me on a number of occasions. Human relations have suffered as a result. I have made mistakes with Segev. They were my mistakes though, which I take much more kindly to than when I have trusted the decisions of others and seen them make a mistake. The value of their mistake is lost on them since they are not the father of the child who suffers as a result of that mistake.
So perhaps I am some kind of control freak, not wanting to relinquish the reigns to others or even, in my mind, to a higher power. To a religious thinker this is an impossibility, not to relinquish to a higher power, since that higher power is in control, at all times. But I won't let others take responsibility for mistakes concerning my son, he is my responsibility after all. This does not come from feelings of guilt. This is a true sense of responsibility, jokingly I refer to this as my God-complex, others I'm certain won't be so jovial.
So please, do not say that God only gives you as much as you can handle, because there are situations that people go through of which you have no idea whatsoever. Allow people the dignity to fail, since it is there that we truly know ourselves, not, as in our triumphs, through a glass darkly.


  1. This is an intriguing post. I think I can safely say that I agree with you on most of it (and of course, that I agree with you is all that matters, right, Eric? ;) )I have to say that I particularly like the idea of "allowing people the dignity to fail"...excellent, compassionate, and realistic. I think, however, that we can see ourselves in our triumphs as well, whether we rejoice in them humbly, or with self-aggrandizement. Excellent post...really on your game today, friend.

  2. Great, provocative writing -- I myself have always found the expression "god only gives you what you can handle" insufferable.

  3. While I, in my heart of hearts believe, that everything is part of God's plan...I do not care for the pharse "God does not give you more than you can handle." It is too cliche and definitely causes a bad feeling for me. It seems to say that if I am not handling things well then I am not doing things the right way/God's way.
    Our children are NOT a mistake. They are NOT a result of sin. They are beautiful. Yes life is hard. Yes we make mistakes as parents. We are NOT perfect and cannot expect ourselves to be nor should anyone else.
    Frankly, it is NOT about us handling it all, because we cannot...we are human, some days we handle it and some we do not.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have always hated that verse, even when forced to memorize it as a child, I Cor 10:13 I think is what people mean when they say the insipid statement though what that has to do with temptation, I am not sure: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear/endure it."

    However, in the typical snatching of bits of the bible in quote, every malady has a person with the ready answer, that God won't suffer you more than you can bear. Well, I guess except those who burn alive, who have cancer, who die from so many diseases.

    People want easy answers and I agree with you that this is a statement I wish people would avoid, as it give no real comfort.

    I do think that falling and failing, to act knowing that failure is possible, to learn from failing, to hurt another, even a loved one and grow stronger because of the realizations of that are important. I would not mind a drug to stabilize or some magic pill to cure me, but to lose the knowledge of the difficulties people with disabilities work with daily, the privilage I had and assumption, and the experience within the medical system, as well as the effects on relationships, both those who stayed and ran away - I don't want that lost. I don't think you want your life lost and rewritten (the other easy solution) - odd how the same people go around talking about the need for 'accepting our brokenness' and 'how we will never have more than we can handle' - but then,aware self irony has always been a problem in modern Christianity.

  5. I totally agree, I hate it when people say that too. Love your post.