Corrie ten Boom could not sit back and watch when the Nazis invaded Holland. She became part of the Dutch underground to hide and save the lives of Jews. Corrie was a committed Christian who trusted God and refused to be apathetic to suffering. Ultimately she was captured and put into a concentration camp. She endured unspeakable humiliation, torture, hunger, and fear. Her sister Betsie died in one of the camps and Corrie watched many others die, also. She was a “lucky” survivor who had to then deal with displacement, loss of her community and family, and reconcile her experiences when the war ended.
Acts 6 & 7 tells the story of Stephen. Stephen was committed to Christ and devoted to sharing the good news with others. When he did signs and wonders there were some people who secretly “induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God”. And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. (Acts 6:11,12)
Ultimately Stephen was falsely charged, tried and then stoned to death for his faith in Christ.
Do you know what well-meaning Christians probably never said to Corrie or Stephen? They probably never said, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
I think it’s safe to say that these people underwent circumstances that were more than they could handle. I’m pretty sure that this cute little saying (that has no Scriptural grounds) is a ‘twist’ on the verse:
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 2 Corinthians 10:13
Yes, God is faithful in giving us the power of the Holy Spirit to help us endure temptation. But I think it’s safe to say if you die from a circumstance… it was probably more than you could handle. If you end up in an insane asylum…it was probably more than you could handle. Yet I often hear people say “God won’t give you more than you can handle” as though it’s a verse or a universal truth.
God does not promise in Scripture that He won’t give me more than I can handle. In fact, He gives me plenty of opportunity to realize “It’s more than I can handle!” so that I cling to Him instead of my own weak abilities. I am confident that there will be more than I can’t handle in this life…if not now then surely whatever preludes my death.
I am confident of something else, also. Before Corrie Ten Boom’s sister died she said, “Corrie, we must tell people how good God is. After the war we must go around the world telling people. No one will be able to say that they have suffered worse than us. We can tell them how wonderful God is, and how His love will fill our lives, if only we will give up our hatred and bitterness.”
When I read this in high school I marveled. HOW can a person be strong enough to say this- sick, beaten, laying on a cot while bugs bite- right before death at the hands of Nazis? Now I know it is because Christ walks with us in what we can’t handle. Betsie wasn’t just a ‘good person’ who happened to be gifted in forgiving murderers. The power of the Holy Spirit gave Betsie tremendous ability to forgive and have an eternal perspective in her temporary pain.
As for Stephen, the masses “gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a aloud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him…and they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:54-58
Being stoned was more than Stephen could handle and clearly more than Stephen’s body could handle. Yet even in the face of death, the face of impossible circumstances, God shows Himself victorious and present. He walked with Stephen. He let him glimpse that the best was yet to come. He again gives the power to forgive, which is impossible apart from Christ.
When we believe silly little sayings like “God won’t give you more than you can handle” we come to a crisis of faith when we do encounter things out of our control. If we acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and trust God’s sovereignty even in what is unmanageable, we can trust that what He offers is so much more than a smooth ride. My aim (instead of timidly crossing my fingers that nothing will be too hard) is to expect opportunity to depend on a Mighty God’s strength and expect Him to walk with me there.
“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:3,4