God Never Said That - Week 2: "God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle"
Today, we're going to conclude the short two-part sermon series that we started last week entitled, "God Never Said That." We are going to be explore the second of two of the most misquoted, misunderstood statements about God that are actually not biblical, but sound biblical.
Last week we talked about the phrase "God just wants you to be happy." We discovered together that God doesn't want us to be happy, he wants us to be holy. If you missed that sermon, you can listen to it on our podcast, go back and watch it on our live streaming site or pick up one of the CDs as you leave today.
We've listed a few things that church-y people say to make people feel better. Can you think of some other phrases? Maybe something someone has said to you that left you scratching your head, or wanting to bang it up against a wall, perhaps.
Today we're going to tackle the second of the most misused of these quotes--"God won't give you any more than you can handle."
Are you stressed? Overwhelmed? Too busy? Pressured?
Don't get me wrong. There are good things that bring us stress. Things like weddings, parties, volunteering at church or in the community, our kids and all of their drama, grandkids and all of their drama... These are all good things that can cause us some stress in the moment when we are negotiating schedules and the like.
There are also seasons in our life that can leave us overwhelmed and stressed. When our kids are little and all we seem to do is change diapers or feed them... When we are dealing with aging parents who require medical care and more... When we are dealing with medical issues on our own, or the loss of loved ones or the stress of work and careers.
Then there are the things that make us desperate. Pain beyond what we can bear. These are the betrayals, infidelity, broken relationships, sudden loss of a loved one, financial meltdowns and the like.
And our Christian friends love to weigh in on these things when we are struggling through them, don't they?
They'll say things like, "It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark..." I've had someone hit me with that one before. I kind of wanted to hit them.
"God helps those who help themselves..." Which makes someone who feels utterly hopeless and helpless like absolute poop.
"Don't worry, God has a plan..." And I'm usually like, "Great, any moment would be a good time for God to come clean about this plan."
"I'll pray for you..." And then they walk away.
"Here's a verse..." Christians love to prooftext people's lives for them.
So where do we get things like this--like "God won't give you any more than you can handle?" Because that phrase is typically the go-to phrase for Christians who want to make people feel better, and if they don't know what else to say. And it sounds vaguely Biblical, doesn't it?
1 Corinthians 10:13 - "God is faithful, he will not you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out."
This verse doesn't say that God won't give you more than you can handle. It simply means that God will not allow you to be tempted to walk away from your convictions or your faith to be tested beyond what you can bear.
This verse teaches us that even though our temptations to lose faith might be great, that God is greater. God will always provide us a way out of those temptations because God is in the business of resurrection, second chances, transformation and redemption. If you had faith at one time--you don't ever really lose it. You might willfully set it down, or walk away from it, to be sure. But that's you moving, not God.
The truth is, God does allow us to experience more than we can handle when it comes to outside stressors, pressure, problems, tragedies, trials and so much more. I use the word "allow" because I don't believe that God causes all things to happen. It's clear to me from what I read in the Bible that God values free will, and does not coerce love from human beings. But because of our free will, we have the freedom to act and do things that also cause harm to us and others. Some things just happen.
To be sure, God doesn't cause all things, but... God is present in all things.
So, even though things might be falling apart around you... God is there in the wreckage holding you close. Even though you might feel like you are at the end of your rope--the end of your rope is God's address, my brothers and sisters.
I think that God allows us to experience more than we can handle not just because of free will, but because I believe he wants us to turn to him when we have no where else to turn.
What I want you to remember today if you remember nothing else is simply this:
"When God allows more than you can handle, you probably can."
It might feel like it's too much, that you can't bear any more, but because you have the presence of the living God around you, in you and through you... you can handle anything.
We learn to turn to God in these moments in two ways:
First, we depend on God's presence.
I've mentioned one of my favorite books on prayer here before--a book by Anne Lamott entitled "Help, Thanks, Wow." These are the three basic prayers that we all pray. Which one do you think people pray the most? Do you think we pray more prayers of thanksgiving? Do we pray more prayers of wonder and joy? Or do most of our prayers fall under the help category? You bet. It's the last one to be sure.
And there's no shame in that. None whatsoever.
Listen to this. Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of the Lord. There is this story in the Gospels about how Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a fishing boat. Jesus got comfy and the rocking of the boat lulled him to sleep so he conked out. A storm comes up and the disciples start to freak out. The boat looks like it's going to capsize.
And Jesus is sleeping.
The disciples wake him up at last, after trying to get things under control on their own. "Don't you care that we are about to drown?" they cry out to him. And Jesus is like, "Seriously? Is that all the faith you've got?" And he rebukes the wind and the waves, it says in the text. "Cut it out!"
I love that story. Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of the Lord.
Second, we need to experience God's power.
The way to understand this is by asking a simple question. Are you sailing on the sea, or are you rowing? What power are you depending upon? Are you allowing yourself to be moved and guided by the wind of the Holy Spirit in your sails, or are your sails unfurled and you're trying to move your boat by rowing like mad on your own?
Following Jesus is a lesson in being counterintuitive. In other words, you have to think the opposite way that our culture would have you think. Our culture tells us that we have to be strong and that weakness isn't allowed. But when it comes to getting through tough times on God's terms, "I have to be strong," needs to be "I have to be weak."
As the Apostle Paul taught, "In my weakness, He is made strong." If we are relying on our steam, and our own strength, we will most certainly run out of both in the midst of serious trials and tribulations.
Until God is all you have--you never realize that God is all you need.
At the front of the sanctuary there are a couple of stations that we've set up. There are cards and markers and also a basin of water. If you have been feeling overwhelmed and overwrought. If you have been struggling through more than you can handle...
I want you to come forward and take one of those cards and use the marker to write down a word or two that describes how you feel. Then take the card and drop it into the basin of water. Feel free to see what happens to the word on that card when the water works on it. It will fade it. It will erase it. It will make is illegible.
As you stand there, feel free to offer a prayer to God acknowledging his presence in your life, and your desire to embrace his power.
When God allows more than you can handle, you probably can.