things jesus didn’t say #6 | handle

9 05 2014

“I won’t give you more than you can handle.” It sounds Jesus-y. How many times have I found myself saying it, to encourage somebody who is struggling, whilst at the same time thinking that sometimes he really does give us more than we can handle. 

thingsjesusdidntsay6handle

Stephen, stoned. Peter, crucified upside-down. Those are just the early ones. You just have to go on the Open Doors website to see the fate of Christians across the world today. Does that mean they did not or are not following God’s will? If he doesn’t give us more than we can manage, surely they must be? I look at my own life, and the decisions that we believe God has called us to make that have nearly broken us. If following Jesus is reduced to a positive lifestyle choice, it is not a good one. 

It’s too easy a cliche to bring out that God won’t give us more than we can handle. The key verse usually (mis)quoted is 1 Corinthians 10.13, 

And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

This verse is about temptation, not suffering. Suffering is here in Romans 5.3-5

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 

Sometimes God gives us more than we can handle. That is a hard truth. So if your church tells you that he doesn’t, and that he will always give you the resources to carry out his calling; and that if he doesn’t then you must have misheard him… it’s not that simple. We don’t believe in a God who leaves us in the lurch. But we do believe in a God who will lead his followers to their death. Is that the same thing?

It is certainly a challenge to the temptation of the middle-class Christianity that says following Jesus will enhance your life and make everything go swimmingly. That is a danger especially at the charismatic end, and it is up to us to be aware of it. Sometimes we are called to plain old hard graft which prayer ministry will not ‘solve’; sometimes following Jesus will break us, or take us very near. 

I think that’s why it’s called taking up a cross.  

Can we handle that? 

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11 responses

9 05 2014
anntogether.com

What a wonderful concept – pairing your sketches with words of wisdom and faith 🙂
AnnMarie
you should – if you haven’t already – make a book – I think it would be wonderful

9 05 2014
c2drl

I guess it depens what you mean by ‘can’t handle’. I don’t see dying as failure or not handling a situation. Neither do i see feeling desperate and not knowing where to turn as failing. As I look back there have been times when I felt I wasn’t able to handle it, and in truth I wasn’t able to on my own. But in retrospect I can see that God was with me, carrying me on occasions, and I learnt more about him and myself then than at any other time.

I don’t believe God ever lets us down or breaks us, but yes he does give us a cross to carry and then helps us do it.

10 05 2014
Shelley Pipe

Romans 11:32 “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all.” There are so many broken souls without Christ in this world the very idea that our God would seek to break a beloved faithful of his own is a cruel irony which would make the weak at heart and mind crumble and scoff at the uselessness of arrogant deity. But my own breathless tortured experience in following Christ has revealed in me the truth you speak here Vicar. God “gave” me far more than I could ever handle and it broke me into a million shattered pieces. I can only pick up my cross because Christ lives in me and while the rage battles on in that tortured soul I go on living with joy, with grace and in peace. What a wonder to marvel at! But I am under no illusion despite the rhetoric of well meaning fellow Christian brothers and sisters, it’s not that I am “handling” the burden, it’s that I feel the deep ingrained love of Christ more, now that my cross is firmly nailed to my back. Now that’s an irony worth experiencing! 🙂

10 05 2014
Shelley Pipe

Oh and I wanted to add…there is a song that comes to mind…not a Christian song…but the chorus goes… “I’m watching you watch over me, and I”ve got the greatest view from here” 🙂 It is a grand thing to be so aware and a witness to the way God loves us.

10 05 2014
Frank Connelly

@ Shelley’your experience brought some reassurance & allowed my heart to feel the touch of Jesus. I agree that @ times I can’t bear the burden and after some pain & willingness I’m ready to surrender to His comforting care. This is everything to me &really Confirms’ by evidence’ that Jesus loves me 🙂
Grateful’

11 05 2014
Shelley Pipe

🙂 I hear you and feel the love the same way Frank. There are times when that cross is so heavy I just fall despite every effort I make. Nothing works, not prayer, not love, not the words of the Bible. I want to toss that frustrating beast into the deepest ocean abyss that I can find because it’s all just so hard. But that’s the rage! The quiet stillness comes eventually then I find I can lift my head, then I’m back on my knees and then on my feet again and I remember that while I have a cross nailed to my back Jesus is nailed there too. Suddenly it doesn’t feel so heavy anymore despite the extra weight of knowing He is there! May you always know and feel His love Frank. 🙂

18 05 2014
carol

Life is unfair and unjust and that is what can ‘break our spirit’. But God…I have always found the ‘but God’ the most amazing gateway out of my ‘pain’ into the fathomless presence of His love and peace. The pain doesn’t always diminish ‘but God’ comforts me and my love for Him increases. How amazing is that!

9 09 2015
Stephen Green

Very good point, Kevin, and good testimony, Shelley. I’m not deterministic enough to think that God gives the order for his people to be persecuted by external forces. They hate us because they hated Jesus first. God did not lay burdens on the Israelites in Egypt, the Egyptians did. So there’s no conflict for me between the promised persecution and the numerous promises of God to those who fear him and walk in his ways.
Having said that, I don’t think us British Christians do enough to stand up for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith across the world.
As for not allowing us to be tempted or tested beyond what we can

9 09 2015
Stephen Green

… bear, I’ll look forward to your blog on resisting temptation, Kevin!

12 08 2016
Adam

Ha!

I started on the road to atheism not least because of this common (mis)interpretation of the verse that you are deriding.

My oldest friend, the most devout, kind and faithful Christian I ever knew became mentally ill and eventually committed suicide. Of course I was extremely shocked and upset, horrified in fact when I found out how he had died. I couldn’t stop thinking that God had let my friend suffer more than he could endure and that therefore he had broken his promise as I understood this verse to mean. Since God doesn’t break his promises, I tentatively concluded that this God who I had put my trust in didn’t exist. The whole thing – Christianity, Jesus as my savior, the Holy Spirit, the whole lot of my 22 years of being a born again Christian was a deception. It caused me to look at every aspect of Christianity from a neutral, investigative, rational perspective, and I discovered that my faith had been built on a house of cards. I finally concluded that the overwhelming weight of evidence provided no reasons for believing either Christian or any other religious doctrine.

So why am I here? A friend shared this blog post on Facebook, and the subject matter interested me greatly and I was unable to respond within Facebook.

I find it so ironic that a misinterpretation of a bible verse startedme down a path which has led me to a more rational, if bleaker world view!

19 08 2016
Kevin

Thanks for this response Adam – I won’t patronise you with any defence of God. I totally get why you would choose as you do, and sometimes I sway that way as well: more of us do than would admit it.

The house of cards metaphor stacks up both ways – all our belief systems are a house of cards to some degree, we just have to choose which one to live in. Thanks for reading.

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