Sunday, February 16, 2014


Here is a phrase I loathe, "God won't give you more than you can handle". It is usually spoken in a cherry voice by someone whose life seems so the opposite of mine that I have to physically resist the urge to slap them. This is a phrase we pull out when we aren't sure how to help someone in deep dark pain. It is a sort of spiritual punch in the arm the "get back on the horse" of the Biblical world. Yet, often those who say it are terrified that the pain they themselves are experiencing.

The phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13, "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.". It is a large concept that has been shoehorned into one awful saying. My interpretation of the verse is that Paul is telling us that all people have painful, ugly, and terrible temptations come their way. Paul himself was a murderer, and we know he lived with some sort of major medical issue that caused him constant pain. All humans experience suffering. This verse does not guarantee that all suffering will be equal, or perceived as the same, but we are all in it to win it. This part is completely left out that lame saying, and it is the second part that is bastardized. 

The second part states,"God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  The concepts here are too large to be shoved into one fear driven statement. The first half of the sentence reminds me of good coach, they will push you past where you think you can go in order to for you to become better. God will push us past our limited human vision of what our lives should and could be.  This means that there is some pain involved in having a relationship with God. It hurts to grow and push. God may know that you are capable of more, but that doesn't mean you do. Five years of infertility felt like walking on knives everyday. In hindsight, I can see how God's plan pushed me to be a better mother and human, but it hurt. It still hurts. Infertility doesn't leave. Harrison was a miracle, but there is no guarantee that he will have a sibling. Though that doesn't hurt in the same way, there is still pain.

This is where the second part comes in to play. "He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." The endure is pretty important here. Synonyms for it include;persist, persevere, stay, last, remain and survive. The pain will remain, but he will give you a way to survive it. This feels dark. If He is an all powerful God of love, then I expect more help in this situation. This is the God who parted the Red Sea, raised Lazarus from the dead, and defied death Himself, and He is only going to give me a way to endure the pain. Cheap. My pain is deep and multitudinous. I don't want to endure it. I want to be that person who has such great faith that I move past it and give peaceful speeches about how I can abide in the love of Lord with a zen like serenity.

I don't understand why this verse exists, or why so many people so flippantly call on it to offer some sort of false comfort to their friends in pain. Cancer? He doesn't give you more than you can handle. Loss of job and overwhelming financial stress? He doesn't give you more than you can handle.  Early On-Set Alzheimer's? What a great opportunity to demonstrate your faith! Infertility? Just adopt, He doesn't give you more than you can handle. No matter what others say, or the verse says, it feels like more than anyone can handle. How do you "handle" cancer? Or the loss of a child? How do you "handle" the mourning of your dreams of the children you can't have? Is the lack of ability to gracefully shoulder these trails a demonstration of a weak faith?

I used to believe that. The fact that I came back to the same issue time and time again was a sign weakness. At 35,  it shouldn't hurt that my Dad isn't around to see his grandson, and after the birth of one miracle baby I shouldn't think about mourning the possible lack of others. I am weak, scared and tired. My faith is not big enough for the zen.  That is where the word "escape" comes in. Synonyms for escape are; bolt, run away, break free, get away, elude and sidestep. None of those sound brave and strong. They feel like the opposite of endure. That is confusing.

There is no promise that God will take my pain away. In fact, He will use my pain to show me what I am capable of , and that will hurt. It will hurt in ways that I am not sure I can handle. In those times I am not to stand strong and laugh in the face of pain, but I am to turn toward God and allow him to offer me comfort and and a moment to sidestep the pain.  This requires humility, I cannot take it on alone. If I do, it will crush me. I must use my faith to endure, and, when I am tired, escape.

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