Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Handle it!

My husband had just left me after 30-plus years of marriage when a falsely pious woman I used to know (I know I’m being bitchy—forgive me) handed me a laminated card that said, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I tossed the card on the kitchen counter, muttered something profane, and said, “Well then God is wrong and he has grossly overestimated me because I can’t handle this.”

And how many people through the years, when they hear of some tragedy, physical or emotional turmoil have used the same trite aphorism, often prefacing it with, “The Bible says . . .”?

This is bumper-sticker theology. That refrigerator magnet won’t make it in my house. I don’t want to believe it’s true and it makes me furious. Imagine dear Maudie Simpkins who goes church every week, prays and reads scripture, and treats everyone she knows with loving kindness. Now picture God, sitting on his throne on high, looking down at Maudie, his faithful servant, and saying, “Her faith is strong so I think I’ll give her cancer, and kill everyone she loves, and while I’m at it I might set her house on fire.”

What kind of God would do that? Do you think God is sitting up there saying, “Wow, that series of hardships I just sent her nearly destroyed her, but she’s strong, I think she can take another blow. Let’s just see. Wham!”

Really—I think this saying was made up by some sappy Hallmark card writer. I did a little research to see if I could find it, even something paraphrasing it, in the Bible. The closest I found is this verse:
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. 1 Corinthians 10:13
In this verse from Corinthians Paul is telling us that God will help us deal with temptation. God is not analyzing our ability to withstand hardship and meting it out accordingly. He’s not punishing the strong with more trouble. I would rather believe that bad things happen, and that sometimes they happen to good people, maybe even to good people who are incredibly strong. When trouble comes, those who believe in God find their strength in him and in a community of fellow believers. They weather the storms holding on to the strength they have found in faith.

So don’t ever say to me that God only gives me as much as I can handle or I’ll bite your head off.

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