“God won’t give me more than I can handle.”
Have you ever asked yourself what you really mean by that statement? I find it is most often brought up out of the deep dark bucket of religious clichés when one feels panic rising from a long-nagging fear that one’s own failures are going to result in a situation that is precisely “more than I can handle.”
In one sense it is clearly true that God will not “give” us more than we can handle. After all, God created us for Eden only after creating Eden for us.
But we left Eden within three short chapters. And in this great world outside of Eden there is a hell of a lot more than we can handle. The very meaning of the first Curse is that sin brings about more than we can handle. And as fallen children living with the stain of original sin, we continuously live with more than we can handle. Like Eve and Adam, often convince ourselves that it is anything but the result of our own fault. We imagine that everything we deal with must be God’s own doing, the result of God’s challenging gift, and never our misuse of the gift.
To make things even more complicated, we live in a world shared with others, and thus shaped by the sin of our community as much as our own individual sin. Thus, even if we ourselves are free from all blemish of sin, we would still have to live with the results of communal failure to embrace perfection.
I would not dare to say that God will give more than we can handle and I will leave the friends of Job to speculate about the difference between “giving” and “allowing.”
But it remains true that many times the declaration that “God won’t give us more than we can handle” is a sly way of asserting that “sin won’t actually cause trouble. Be as self-indulgent as you like, because you can count on God to get you through.” And that, my good friend, is simply pernicious.
Here is the truth: Sin will cause trouble. This beautiful world is sadly fallen. Religious clichés further damnation when they encourage one to ignore reality.
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This is a phrase I have heard quite alot and that really has nothing to do with right theology, as far as I know, and as you pointed out. A friend of mine says that people like to use this particular cliche in order to deny suffering. So true.
I thought of that as I read your post, and also of Fr. Groeschel’s words about good and evil: when they come into contact, he says, there is always suffering.