If you’ve lived on planet earth long enough, you’ve probably heard at least one Christian say to another Christian, “God won’t give us more than we can handle” in a well-meaning, heart-felt attempt to encourage them. Or maybe someone has said it to you when you were going through a really tough time. I remember people saying it to me when my world was being rocked to the core and thinking, It sure feels like more than I can handle! Can you relate?
The truth is … that statement is nowhere to be found in Scripture. The Lord will allow circumstances in our lives that are more than we can handle, so that we will learn to stop relying on our natural strength and trust in His strength instead. Sadly, most of us will not learn this, apart from going through circumstances where our natural resources are utterly exhausted. I didn’t. Christ taught me the powerful principle of learning to trust Him as my life during one of the most painful seasons I’ve ever experienced.
In the summer of 2002, I was at the altar during an evening church service, asking the Lord how He wanted to use my life for His glory. He showed me (by flashing a picture through my mind) that someday I would be teaching His Word instead of high school math.
I’m not saying that the Lord didn’t use me for His glory while I was teaching high school math because I believe He did. He was just showing me that He was about to change the vocation through which He would reveal His glory through me. But first (and unbeknownst to me), He needed to do a major “mental overhaul” in the way I viewed the Christian life.
Not long after the Lord gave me that picture, I was lying on my face on our bedroom floor, asking Him when I was going to get to stop teaching math and start teaching His Word. After a while, I heard Him speak (in the form of a thought going through my mind).
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31 NKJV).
Out of this entire Scripture, the only word I really heard was wait, and the impatient flesh pattern in my brain instantly rose up in rebuke. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to start teaching His Word right away.
That summer, I had been taking good care of myself, working out, and eating right. When school started in the fall, I remember telling a good friend of mine that I had never felt stronger in my life after she commented on how well I looked. While there is nothing wrong with good nutrition and exercise habits, I took it to an extreme and became proud without realizing it. My focus was on me, and what I was doing to make myself healthy and strong. My physical strength was my chariot—what I was trusting in, rather than Christ (Psalm 20:7).
In the months that followed, I began having problems with my colon. I had never had colon issues before and began to worry that something was seriously wrong. A word of advice if you are having health issues: don’t try to diagnose yourself through the Internet. Because of what I read, fear compounded my colon issues.
I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist and had a colonoscopy. It revealed that I had irritable bowel syndrome, which could be controlled with diet and stress reduction. Nothing too serious. I was so relieved that I didn’t have cancer.
One morning not long after that, I swallowed a handful of vitamins and aspirin with some orange juice. It felt like one of the vitamins had permanently lodged in my esophagus. In the days that followed, I experienced a chronic sore throat. (This is a severe hiccup for someone who teaches school.) By the end of every workday, I was so exhausted all I wanted to do was go to bed.
I went to a couple of different specialists, one of whom diagnosed me with acid reflux and put me on medicine to treat those symptoms. The medicine didn’t help at all because I didn’t have acid reflux. I still had a chronic sore throat, though—along with the irritable bowel syndrome.
After suffering through almost two years of this—going from doctor to doctor, praying healing Scriptures, and believing God, I threw up my hands and told the Lord, “I have done everything I know to do, and nothing is working. If anything good is going to come out of this, You are going to have to do it. I quit.”
One month later, I went through three weeks of testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I was diagnosed with esophageal nerve damage and prescribed a low-dose medication to help relieve the chronic pain. Today, I’m happy to report that after almost ten years of being on that medication, the chronic sore throat is gone, and I no longer have to take it.
While I am very grateful that the Lord healed me, I am more thankful that He did not do it right away. Yes, that’s right. He taught me so much through that painful two-year process. Up until that time, I had begun to understand that Christ lived in me, but I viewed Him as a “helper” when I got stuck in a hard place that I couldn’t get out of on my own. In other words, His power remained dormant in me until I needed it.
All of my efforts had to be completely exhausted before I finally understood that He didn’t want to just “help me” live my life—He wanted me to realize that He was my Life, and apart from trusting dependence on Him, I could do nothing of eternal value (John 15:5). Looking back at the moment when I gave up, I believe He must have grinned a mile wide and said, “Good! Now I can do something.”
Remember that great “wait” Scripture the Lord gave me from Isaiah? After understanding my spiritual union with Him, He took me back to it, this time in a different translation:
“Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary” (Isa. 40:31 NASB).
The first two lines of the previous translation said,
“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength” (Isa. 40:31 NKJV).
Immediately, the words new strength from the New American Standard Bible jumped off the page and into my heart! What a kiss! His strength was the new strength!
What’s even more fascinating is that the Hebrew word for wait actually means “to bind together.” When we recognize that our spirit and Christ’s Spirit are eternally bound together, we will begin to understand that we have no life apart from Him. And get this: the word gain signifies “a substitution or interchange—an exchange of His supernatural strength for our natural strength.” In light of my new understanding, the following is my personal paraphrase of the first part of this verse:
Those who understand and acknowledge their spiritual union with the Lord
will exchange their natural strength for His supernatural strength
by trusting Him to live His life through them.
When we stop relying on our natural strength and begin trusting Him to live through us, we can’t go wrong! But just like everything else in His kingdom, we must do this by faith.
Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed today’s excerpt from my soon-to-be-published Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love. I would love to interact with you concerning its content by asking you a few of questions:
- Prior to reading today’s post, did you believe the statement, “God won’t give us more than we can handle?”
- Do you still believe it? Why or why not?
- How will what you’ve learned in today’s post change the way you handle trials that come into your life?
If you prefer to interact with me through personal email rather than commenting below, you can do so by clicking here.
Until next time,
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