Since becoming a Christian, I’ve heard the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” on numerous occasions. Heck, I’ve heard it so often that I accepted it as Biblical truth and have used the phrase once or twice to encourage myself or another Christian. After all, at first glance it sounds good, feels good, and appears like it could be Scriptural truth. So what’s the problem? The phrase is simply not found anywhere in the Bible.
I am embarrassed to admit this was a recent discovery of mine. After a recent conversation in which the phrase popped up yet again, I felt prompted to research it further. As I searched for the Bible verse(s) this phrase might be quoted from, I could not find any. The most similarly worded verse I found was 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.” Morphing this verse into “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is clearly a gross misinterpretation.
In truth, one cannot read the Bible without observing that many of the Biblical characters we admire were given far more than they could “handle.” Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Esther, Paul, Peter, etc. etc. Let’s also not forget the millions of martyrs in the history of the Church…I’m assuming death was probably more than what they considered they could handle. The clear truth from the myriad examples found in the Bible is that we are often given more than we can handle in our own power.
Not only is this expression absent from Scripture but it is an affront to the truth that God has revealed in His Word. A situation I can “handle” is one in which my own power and abilities are sufficient. However, the whole point of the Gospel is that because we are sinful, we are unable to handle the most important issue of our lives – our separation from God. This is why we need the work of Christ on the cross…between sin’s destruction and Satan’s scheming, we all find ourselves in a situation that is far more than we can handle. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus himself said “apart from me you can do nothing.”
Moreover, aside from simply being untrue (and an offense to those who are dealing with a situation that is more than they can handle), an additional problem with saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is that it takes the emphasis off of God and puts it on us. In reality, God repeatedly allows us to find ourselves in difficult situations to foster a healthy dependence upon Him. Ultimately, it is God himself who “handles” a situation, and thus demonstrates He is the one in control – not us. The truth is we are in constant, daily need of God’s intervention, and until we learn that lesson, we will find our hot-headed, independent, prideful selves back in our anxiety-ridden delusion that we are in control of our lives.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
So let’s retire this saying and replace it with this: Yes, God most definitely will allow you to experience situations that are more than you feel you can handle, but God can handle it. As we trust Him, He will be faithful to provide and though our lives may not transpire as we hoped, we can take comfort in the knowledge that His will for our lives is ultimately what is best and will bring Him the most glory…and that is all that matters.