Urban Legend

Myth word cloud
It’s been passed around for so many years it’s widely believed, though untrue:
God won’t give you more than you can handle.

The Bible nowhere says that. God absolutely gives us more than we can handle. Our misunderstanding comes from a misrepresentation of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Let’s look at it.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

God’s promise in this verse is that we will not be tempted to sin with stronger force than we have ability to resist. He’s talking about temptation to sin.

God purposely gives us more than we can handle so that we will have to depend on Him. Paul shares his experience, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.

The afflictions and sufferings we encounter in this life will most definitely be more than we can handle. Otherwise we wouldn’t need God—we’d just handle it ourselves. We wouldn’t need God if our human capacity was adequate for all the troubles that come our way.

Now, if we assume that God will never give us more than we can manage, and then we get bombarded by some devastating hardship, that in itself can cause us to be discouraged and lose heart, because we’re confused as to why God wasn’t faithful to the promise we thought he’d made. No wonder we have disillusioned Christians running around. They’re operating under a false assumption.

Both Peter and James tell us that our faith, of greater worth than gold, needs testing to make it grow and mature, and to prove that it’s genuine. The refiner’s fire is hot and painful, but it burns off the impurities, developing virtues needed for the long haul. One such virtue is perseverance. We don’t learn perseverance if we’ve never wanted to quit. God piles on the load to keep us running to him (1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-4).

The next time someone tells you, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” tell them “Yes he will, because he loves me too much to stay out of my life.”

I welcome your responses.

8 comments to Urban Legend

  • Beverly Schlomann

    Amen, sister! That “coffee cup statement” is one of my “rants” — and then I take them to 2 Corinthians 1. . .and settle down 🙂

  • Barb

    Awesome and right on, Janet! This was so special that I sent it to one of my sisters as an encouragement to her newfound faith. You put this amazingly well and pulled together all the parts perfectly. Thanks.

  • Juliana

    A less common saying that I have also heard is this: “Lord, help me remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I together can’t handle.” But even this makes me a bit uncomfortable – as if I am in a 50-50 partnership with God. The truth is that I am His child – dependent on Him, yet responsible to do what He calls and equips me to do. 2 Corinthians 4 is the chapter I memorized to help me remember this, especially in the midst of incurable, chronic health problems.

  • Lise

    Thanks Janet. The older I get the more hurt and sadness I see in friends’ lives and the more I need to be reminded that God is in control and it is only Him that we can and should rely on.

  • Richie

    I’ve heard that “expression” all my life as if it were a bible verse. Frankly I didn’t know any different until I started reading the bible myself and until you pointed that out specifically to me a few years ago. I am so thankful that I can read the bible and that I have godly friends much more knowledgable than me who point out the truth of scripture.

  • Amy Calvetti

    Thank you so much for writing about this age old go to phrase. I know of 2 people I want to share this with. I’m so thankful for the friend who told me about your website. I always feel encouraged when I read it.

  • Rhoda J Oosterhouse

    I thoroughly agree with this article. I have been trying to explain that Bible verse, I Corinthians 10:13 to people for some time. God has allowed enough suffering in my life, one being the tragic death of my daughter, that I know I cannot handle any of it on my own. I have only Him to depend on, as He is the only one who thoroughly knows my loss and pain. As I live with a nightmare that will always be a part of my life, it is not something I am going through; it is not something I am going to get over, and it is not something I can move on from. It is God teaching me to live with a sorrow where I am totally dependent on Him, – He being the only hope I have.

    • Rhonda, Thank you for sharing this. Your words are truth with reality attached. God is our only hope and some still do not understand that. Those who’ve had irreversible loss have an opportunity to know this truth in a real way. Press on dear sister. Your story touches all of us, and the God you know and serve is the God of Hope, as Paul writes in Romans 15:13.