• Adam Schell

The Bible Doesn't Say That God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle


Over the last few weeks at Melbourne Heights, we have been talking about things the Bible doesn’t say. Now, obviously, there are a lot of things the Bible doesn’t say…so what we’ve really been talking about are things that a lot of Christians seem to believe the Bible says even though it doesn’t. So we’ve talked about statements like “Everything happens for a reason,” and “God helps those who help themselves,” and “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it,” and “Love the sinner and hate the sin.”


And over the last few weeks, we’ve seen that not only are these statements not in the Bible…but we’ve also seen that each of these statements can distort our understanding of who God is and who we are. Or, to put it another way, we’ve seen that sometimes the things we don’t know about the Bible can hurt us.

Sometimes the things we don’t know about the Bible can hurt us.

And we’ve got one last statement that isn’t in the Bible that we’re going to be talking about this morning. But before we dive into this statement, there’s something else I want to talk about first. I want to take a little time to talk about why I’ve been preaching this sermon series. Now, I haven’t been preaching this series to make you feel bad if you have believed or even said any of the statements that we’ve been talking about. The truth is that at one time or another I believed every one of these statements myself.


So what led me to start questioning these ideas that so many of us not only believe but also believe are in the Bible? Well, I started questioning some of these statements as I started spending more time reading and studying the Bible for myself. And the more I read and studied the Bible for myself, the more I realized that none of these statements were actually in the Bible. Then, when I went off to college and then on to seminary, I spent time with professors and fellow students who helped me see that these statements not only weren’t biblical but they were also dangerous because they distorted what the Bible actually teaches us about who God is and who we are.


But the biggest reason why I began to question these statements is because, when I became a pastor, I started to see how these statements have hurt people and even caused some of those people to walk away from faith altogether. So I haven’t been preaching this series to make you feel bad if you’ve said or believed any of these statements that aren’t in the Bible. I’ve been preaching this series to help you if you’ve been hurt by any of these statements.


And over my 15 years in ministry, there is one statement that I have heard time and time again that has quite possibly hurt more people and caused more people to walk away from their faith than any other. And that’s the statement that we’re going to be talking about today. So what is this statement that the Bible doesn’t say?

It’s this one: God won’t give you more than you can handle.

God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Now, just like all of the other statements we’ve talked about in this series, the statement that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” sounds like something you’d find in the Bible. The truth is that this statement even sounds a lot like something that the Apostle Paul wrote in a letter he sent to followers of Jesus in a city called Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul wrote:


…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength…


Now, when Paul writes that God won’t let you be tested beyond your strength that sounds a lot like the statement that God won’t give you more than you can handle. But there are a couple of problems with drawing that conclusion.


The first problem with drawing that conclusion is the word “tested” in this passage. Now, the word that is translated as “tested” in this passage is the Greek word peirasmos which can obviously be translated as tested. But the type of test that the word peirasmos refers to is a test of your resolve, or your character, or your faith…it’s not about being tested by the adversity or difficult situations that we will all face at some point in our lives. So a better translation for this word is “tempted.”


So let’s make that change and put this verse back up on the screen. Now it says:


…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength…


But that’s just the first problem with drawing the conclusion that Paul is telling us that God won’t give you more than you can handle in this verse. The second problem with drawing this conclusion is the dot, dot, dots that you see at the beginning and the end of this statement on the screen. But what do the dot, dot, dots mean?


Well, those three dots are actually called an ellipsis, and an ellipsis is used to show us that something has been intentionally left out from a sentence or a statement. So those three dots show us that there is more to this verse. So let’s take a look at the entire verse. This is what all of 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:


13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the tempting he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.


1 Corinthians 10:13 (New Revised Standard Version)


So what Paul is telling us in this verse isn’t that God won’t give you more than you can handle. What Paul is really telling us is that when you are tempted God will provide a way out of that temptation for you. And that’s an important lesson that we can all learn because we all face temptations all the time…so it’s good to know that God always provides a way out of that temptation. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.


Today, we’re talking about the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” And I’ve just shown you that this statement is not in the Bible. But does that means that it isn’t true? After all, there are a lot of people who believe this idea is helpful when they’re facing a tough time.


So it’s not uncommon to hear people say things like: I know things are hard right now. But keep your chin up, because God won’t give you more than you can handle. Or they’ll say: I know that your heart is broken because you just lost a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or a friend, but don’t worry. God won’t give you more pain and suffering than you can bear.


And although we have the best of intentions when we say these kinds of things, there is a major problem with telling someone that God won’t give them more than they can handle. And that major problem is found in the first four words. God. Won’t. Give. You.


When we say “God won’t give you…” we are implying that whatever difficult or painful things are happening in your life, God gave them to you. Now, in the very first week of this sermon series, we talked about we should think twice before suggesting that God wills bad things to happen to us when we were talking about the statement “Everything happens for a reason.”


And I told you that if that statement was true, then God caused every single bad thing that has ever happened from car accidents to genocide. And the same thing is true when it comes to saying that “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” If that statement is true then God is responsible for every difficult or painful thing you have to deal with.


But that just isn’t true. And I can tell you that it isn’t true because the Bible doesn’t tell us that God won’t give you more than you can handle, but the Bible does tell us:


17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…


James 1:17 (New International Version)


So, in this verse, the book of James tells us that God is responsible for every good and perfect thing…not every difficult and painful thing. And this isn’t all that the Bible has to say on this matter. In Psalm 46:1, we’re told:

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.


So this verse alludes to the fact that not only is God not responsible for the difficult and painful things we face in life, it also tells us that God is our refuge and our strength when we face those difficult and painful times. So, when we tell people that God won’t give them more than they can handle, we’re lying to them about who God is.


Because God doesn’t give us difficult things to handle, God helps us handle difficult things.

God doesn’t give us difficult things to handle, God helps us handle difficult things.

I personally like the way that I once heard a member of another church explain this in a letter she wrote to her pastor. In this letter she said:


If someone tells me this – that God won’t give you more than you can handle – one more time, I may lose it. First of all, God didn’t cause my husband to beat me, he didn’t make my brother commit suicide, he didn’t plant the IED that my nephew hit, which will result in him losing his leg, and God didn’t give my best friend cancer. I could go on, but you get the idea.


I absolutely reject the idea that all of these horrible things were God’s will. What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that God is helping me cope. It’s not easy, but I know that I am never alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. I know I can turn to God and cry and kick and scream, and he will comfort me. I can thank him for connecting me with the attorney who helped me get out of an abusive marriage. I can thank him for giving me the strength to talk about my brother’s suicide in the hopes that it might be helpful to someone else. I can thank him for allowing my nephew to live instead of die. God is turning the challenges and using them for good.


This letter does a far better job showing us who God is than the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” And that’s because we don’t believe in a God who gives us things we have to bear. We don’t believe in a God who tests us by bringing difficult and painful things into our lives. Instead, we believe in a God that sustains us, walks with us, and cares for us when difficult and bad things happen during the course of life.


This is the idea that the Apostle Paul is getting at in a letter that he wrote to Christians living in Rome. These were Christians that would one day be persecuted because of their faith by the very empire that they called home. But Paul wanted to make sure that regardless of what came their way in life God would always be with them.


So, in Romans 8:35-39, Paul tells them:


35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,


We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.


37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.


Romans 8:35-39 (Common English Bible)


So did you hear what Paul says in this passage? Paul says that God will always be there to help us handle difficult things. It doesn’t matter if we face trouble distress, harassment, famine, nakedness, danger, or the sword…God will always be there to help us handle difficult things. It doesn’t matter if we face life or death, angels or rulers, the present or the future…nothing can separate us from God.


And this isn’t just something that I believe because we read it in the Bible. This is something that I believe because I have experienced it myself…and you’ve experienced it too. I mean, just think of everything you have gone through since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.


Now did God give us this pandemic? No. This pandemic was caused by a virus spread from bats to humans. But there is no question that this virus has made life difficult and painful for us all. For some of us, COVID-19 has caused literal pain as we’ve been infected by the virus and had to deal with the symptoms. For others, the pain caused by this virus has been emotional as we have lost family and friends to this disease.


And this virus made life difficult for us all. For several months, we were all asked to stay healthy at home so we went into lockdown mode…which wasn’t easy. We went months without being able to eat in a restaurant, go to a ball game or even get our hair cut. When restrictions eased up, we still canceled everything from birthday parties to holiday celebrations to try to slow the spread of this virus.


Plenty of us, myself included, had to completely relearn how to do our jobs. I spent more than a year preaching to a camera, and only interacting with most of our church through Zoom calls, emails, and Facebook posts.


And if you had asked any of us if we could handle everything that we’ve faced over the last couple of years before this pandemic began, we all would’ve said no. So are we all just way stronger than we think we are? Or has God been helping us handle these difficult times every step of the way?


God’s been helping us. And it’s not hard for me to look back and see how God has helped me handle everything I’ve faced during this pandemic. I see how God helped me when I look at the new and improved website we launched just a few weeks before the pandemic began…a website that allowed us to continue to minister to you even when we couldn’t meet together in person. I see how God helped me when I think about the conversations our leadership started having about live streaming our worship service just months before the only way we could do church was through a live stream.


I see how God helped me make it through by looking back on cards and emails that members of this church sent to encourage me and thank me for all the work I was putting in. I see how God has helped me make it through by looking at all the doors God opened up for our church so that we could learn to do ministry in the new world that we’re all living in.


So I know that God doesn’t give me more than I can handle…because I know that God didn’t cause this pandemic to happen and because I know there is no way I could’ve made it through this pandemic on my own. But I also know that even though God doesn’t give us difficult things to handle, God helps us handle difficult things. And God will help you handle difficult things too.