More Than We Can Handle

"God won't give you more than you can handle." 

This phrase is often declared with confidence as though taken directly from scripture. It is intended to reassure those going through tough times. But is it true?

The idea comes from First Corinthians 10:13 which says, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Did you see anything in there about hard times? About trials? About suffering or persecution? This verse is talking about temptation. God is promising that every temptation we encounter has been faced before. It is not unique to us, even though in the midst of it we feel as though it is. He is promising that as powerful as the temptation to sin may be in the moment, He is more powerful. If we belong to Him, then His Spirit in us can enable us to overcome that temptation and not give in.

He also promises a way of escape from the relentless obsession that temptation can often be. But notice too, that He does not promise to completely removed the temptation. He will not treat us like babies in a playpen, removing any possibility of us getting into mischief. The power He gives us will enable us to endure the temptation without giving in to it, even while it still taunts us.

Many times we have to face more than we can handle. Life is set up that way. If we could handle it all by ourselves, we wouldn't need God. Sorrows, heartaches, trouble, and disease are often more than we can handle. Life threw us a curve ball and we weren't ready. 

"God won't give you more than you can handle" actually does more to incite anger toward God than to bring comfort. Even as it is being said, our hearts want to scream, "Well, this time it IS more than I can handle!" This catchy phrase portrays God as a trickster who keeps adding burdens to our backs just to see how much we can handle. He gleefully adds one more disaster and steps back to see if we will crack. That is not God.

The true God suffers when we do. He walks with us through the valleys, holds our hand, and whispers His encouragement, "Fear not. I am with you." He knows life is more than we can handle, so He does it with us. And because death is more than any of us can handle, He prepares an eternal home for us and provides the way for us to get there.

Rather than repeat this inaccurate phrase, let's say instead: "I know this feels like more than you can handle, but God is with you. He will strengthen you and comfort you and bring you through it. He cares about you. You can trust Him with this."


The Best Beauty Treatment

Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Genesis 29:17 

No one is sure what "weak eyes" means, but because the verse then mentions Rachel's beauty, we assume “weak eyes” referred to Leah's appearance. Some scholars have suggested that the term “weak eyes” may also refer to the way she presented herself, as unhappy and lifeless. Both may be true. After a lifetime of being labeled as less desirable than her sister, Leah may have come to believe that she was inferior and not worthy of the love and respect given to others. And that attitude affected the way others saw her.

When we believe we have no value, we tend to greet the world that way. When we assume no one will want us, we often further the rejection by presenting ourselves as unworthy of love and respect. Our conviction that we are undesirable becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others then treat us the way we assume that they will. Healthy self-worth is seeing ourselves the way God sees us--no more, no less. When we choose to agree with God about our value, others are drawn to His image in us. When we bask in His love and acceptance, and enjoy loving Him in return, it changes us. Worship of God is a great beautifier. 

What do you believe about yourself that affects the way you greet the world? Have you chosen to agree with God about yourself—no better, no worse? When we greet the world nestled in the love of our Creator, others see the beauty and treasure that God sees. Are you allowing the beauty of the Lord to shine through your countenance? 


Must I Fight Alone?

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 

On the trip from the familiar to the unknown, Jacob found himself alone. And God met him there. But the meeting was not what we would expect. God did not come to comfort, reassure, or bless. He came to confront. As unpleasant as the confrontation must have been, it was the only way Jacob could make real progress toward his future. He had to be confronted with who he had been before he could become who he was designed to be.

Alone. Even the word bothers us. Our toughest battles are usually fought alone, battles of the mind and heart that no one else can share. We wrestle with doubt, despair, depression, and defeat alone. We often yearn for the comfort of God, but instead He confronts us with our false idols, our harmful attitudes, and our destructive patterns. Rather than comfort us in our sin, He confronts us with His plan. He loves us too much to let us live in self-deception and is willing to allow us temporary discomfort to provide permanent healing and blessing. Just as a baby bird must peck its way out of the shell in order to have the strength to survive, so must we wrestle through those dark alone times to gain the wisdom and faith to survive when life gets hard. 

Do you avoid being alone with your fears and doubts? Do you keep your life busy and noisy so you won’t have to be alone with your thoughts? God meets us in those alone times and confronts us with our idols, our pride, and our deception. He urges us to keep going, keep seeking, keep wrestling until we find victory. He knows that our faith will be weak and useless without the struggle. Those struggles refine us, deepen us, and rid us of junk that will hold us back from His plan. And they must be fought alone.


The Ground is Yours

“…The ground you are lying on belongs to you….”  Genesis 28:13 (NLT)

The LORD Himself stood above Jacob, pointing at the ground. “It’s yours,” He said. Jacob could have been either overjoyed or angry. On one hand, he had just been given dirt. Lots of it. Rocks, too. What a gift. However, he was able to look beyond the obvious to the real treasure. Rather than focus on the dirt and rocks, Jacob chose to see this gift the way God saw it. It was his heritage. This would be the means by which God would bless him. Because He saw the potential in what God had given him, he could accept the responsibility that came with it.

You are camped on some ground that God has given you. You may see only rocks, but God points to it and says, “It’s yours.” He chose it for you and wants to see what you will do with it. He meets us where we are and wants to bless what He has given us. Your “ground” may be children, a job, your home, or a dream. It could also involve a challenge, a responsibility, or an unwanted burden. What has been your response? Have you seen only dirt? Or do you see it for the amazing gift that it is? Our response determines whether our gifts remain only dirt, or become avenues through which God can bless and use us.

What “ground” has God entrusted to you? Have you despised the situation or position God has appointed for you? God knows what He is doing when He brings things into our lives. He has dreams for us and gives us what we need to accomplish them. He points to His gift and says, “It’s yours.” How have you responded?


Is It Too Late?


Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud. Genesis 27:38 (NIV)

It was too late. The opportunity had passed and he missed it. He hadn’t thought he cared about his heritage back when he so casually threw it away. But now…Realization hit with a power punch, but it came too late. It was gone and he had no one to blame but himself.

Regret is painful. Remorse is worse. But often we mistake those emotions for repentance—and they are not the same. Remorse and regret make us feel bad, hate ourselves, hate others, and remind us continually that we are failures. They become fertilizer for self-loathing, which we often mistake for humility. But repentance is different. Repentance is the doorway to restoration. Repentance means we agree with God about our sin and we do a 180. We own what we’ve done and change our mind about doing it again. We accept the forgiveness of God, but we don’t take it for granted. Esau regretted what he’d done. He felt remorse over the consequences. But he never repented, so he could never be restored. Have you made the same mistake?

If you find yourself continually returning to the same sins, same patterns, same attitudes that have always defeated you, could it be that you have never repented? You feel bad about it, hate the pain it causes, hate yourself for doing it, but…you want to reserve the right to do it again if you want to. Isn’t it time you agreed with God about how awful that sin is and let go of it? Only through repentance can our innocence and our fellowship with God be restored.

And The Winner Is...

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28 (NLT)

Imagine wrestling with God. And winning! What does that mean? Jacob found out and he was never the same.
We may never physically wrestle with an angel, but we have plenty of opportunities to wrestle through emotional, psychological, and spiritual battles and win. We all come face-to-face with questions, temptations, and struggles that seem to overwhelm us. The outcome of our lives depends upon the results of those struggles.

The name “Jacob” means “supplanter” or “one who takes.” “Israel” means “having power with God.” Before Jacob could experience all that God desired to do through him, he had to find out who he was. He had lived in deceit, denial, and trickery. God finally had to bring him to the end of himself in a high-stakes battle. Only then could he be transformed from a trickster to a mighty man of God.

We all have defining moments when we find out what we are made of. Because God relentlessly pursues our good, He allows us to come to the end of ourselves, where we are forced to admit who we’ve become. When we wrestle through those “dark nights of the soul” and come out victorious, we have greater power with God. By wrestling through doubt, despair, temptation, and heartache, we learn to know God better. Emptied of our old selfish strongholds, we are then fit to be named with the name He chose for us when He created us. 

Have you wrestled with God? If you’ve experienced the “dark night of the soul,” you know it. If you haven’t yet, you will. Jacob shows us the reward when we don’t give up, but pursue God with abandon. When we refuse to turn away or give in to despair, He renames us. We are no longer defined by our sin, but by our new intimate relationship with Him.

Press On!

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Phil. 3:13-14

Every race must have a finish line. We have to know where we are going before we can finish. This verse tells us that the finish line is not here on this earth. Our race here has eternal significance, but the prize comes after we leave this race. We are reminded that in order to run our race well, we must let go of the past, the things that hold us back, and press onward toward all God has created us to be.

No runner enters a race weighted down with unnecessary junk. You wouldn’t start running while carrying your high school yearbook, your divorce decree, or your financial records. You also wouldn’t drag your legal file, the stuff you hoard, or your self-compiled list of personal failures. You don’t need them and they’ll slow you down. They slow you down in your life race, too. God wants us to keep our eyes on His prize and shed whatever keeps us from it. When we let go of the junk, we are free to focus on following wherever He leads us.

Are you letting God heal your past? Are you accepting the full pardon and cleansing He offers you through His Son Jesus? He invites you to forget the past and look forward. He wants you to press on with your eye on the prize. The greatest reward we can receive is to look in the face of our Savior one day and hear Him say, “Well done!”


Do Your Clothes Fit?

“Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes… and gave them to her younger son, Jacob.”  Genesis 27:15 (NLT)

The moment Rebekah took Esau’s clothes and handed them to Jacob, she became a part of redefining who he was. She instigated a deceptive plan that required her son to be someone else in order to fit her own agenda. Rather than let God define him, Jacob went along with his mother’s idea that involved betrayal, hatred, and family crisis. Only a direct intervention from God allowed Jacob to break free of deception and discover who he was created to be.

Some of us are clothed in an identity that is not ours. Maybe you were dressed by parents or family members, compared to an older sibling,  or expected to step into shoes that didn’t fit. Maybe because of their own issues, your family rejected you or tried to dress you in the image of who they wanted you to be. Only God knows your real identity. Only He can dress you in the clothes He designed for you.

Whose “clothes” are you wearing?  Who have you allowed to define you? Has family, cultural expectations, or early experiences dressed you in clothing God never intended you to wear? He longs to dress you in His righteousness and call you His child. Let the One who designed you be the only One who defines you. Are you ready to get dressed?

For this new year, you can choose  to shed any identity not handed to you by God Himself. Let this be the year you began to live as authentically YOU.