“God will never give you more than you can bear. He will give you only what you can handle.”
In the early years of my walk with Jesus, I found these words comforting whenever challenges arose. I even began dispensing the same advice to friends who went through tough times.
But when I lost my mother, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Not long after that, a close uncle (my mom’s brother) was shot dead. Then, my father passed away three days after my wedding. A few months later, another close uncle lost both his arms in a freak accident. The same words of encouragement that had meant so much to me suddenly held no water.
How could God allow these things to happen? It didn’t make sense to me. I thought to myself: Didn’t they say God will not give me more than I can handle? Hadn’t I just gone past my limit of what I could endure and carry on my own?
It made me think not only of myself but also of others who were in tougher circumstances than I was in. I mean, how do I tell a mother who has just lost a child that God will never give her more than she can handle? Or a husband who has to bury his wife and kids? Or a child who has lost both his parents?
How can I reconcile these crushing real-life experiences with this often-used statement of reassurance? Will God really not give us more than we can bear?
For a while, I carried on believing that He wouldn’t. I pretended to be strong and to keep going. But the pretense was hard to keep up with; I was barely hanging on.
Yes, He Would
After some time, I finally found the courage to admit this: that God does give us more than we can bear. I believe He allows us to experience overwhelming pain that could possibly wreck us and empty us, and to go through crushing defeats that will shake our very core.
How then should we make sense of the promise God gave in 1 Corinthians 10:13? After all, it does state unequivocally that God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”. That’s when I realized this: the word “tempted” in this verse refers to sin. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can resist. This oft misquoted verse does not refer to suffering trials.
When it comes to trials, I believe God gives us more that we can bear because if we can take everything that comes our way on our own, then we don’t really need Him. If we can bear every burden that we experience, then it would be unnecessary for us to call on Him for help, for strength, for courage.
Unless we have Jesus’ grace and strength, there is no way we can endure the trials. I know this because I went through some messy situations in my life that brought me to my knees and emptied me to a point where I couldn’t cry anymore because it was just too much. The pain was too much to bear; it was stuck in my heart and my throat. It was in those moments that nothing else mattered but my relationship with Him.
Pain is Good
So does this mean that God is cruel for allowing terrible things to happen to us? No, it doesn’t.
Truth be told, I think pain is good for us. No, I am not saying I like it—far from it. But while pain is a lousy companion, it’s a competent teacher. It helps us see clearly and go back to what we truly need. Pain lets us know that something is wrong.
I once saw a movie about a war veteran who lost his ability to feel the lower half of his body. In one scene, a high school volunteer who was helping him clean up commented that he sometimes wished that he didn’t feel pain when he was training for football. That’s when the man answered, “No, you don’t. You don’t wish to not feel pain.”
I think that’s the part we almost always miss. We want to not feel pain, believing that this is best for us. But pain is not our enemy. Pain actually helps us live life better. Pain can steer us into the right direction—a life focused and dependent on God.
I am not making light of the difficult things many of us deal with. Believe me, there have been many times in my life I wished I didn’t have to suffer. Yet, I have to say that in God’s wisdom, He has let them happen for a purpose.
I now depend more on Him for strength knowing that I would never make it without Him. I’ve learned to love people better and to truly care for their welfare. I saw the foolishness of my selfish desires and became wiser in my decisions. These are but a few of the lessons God has taught me—lessons I would have never fully grasped if pain wasn’t involved.
At the end of the day, trials and pain are realities we will always have to face. But we can definitely count on God to be with us every step of the way.
This article was first published here. This version has been edited by YMI.