Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life Warning: It's More Than You Can Handle

I had a conversation with a 50 year old-ish acquaintance recently who was sharing that in the past year her older brother, younger sister and dog of 17 years had died. Just a few weeks ago, her cat died. She concluded this list of losses, by apologetically stating, "But, God does not give you more than you can handle."

  I don't agree. I flat out disagree. I think that's a lie of religion and bad theology.

Having had a few years of overwhelming loss myself, I think I can safely, from experience say, that God often allows us to experience more than we can handle. To think that he wouldn't, that He would keep us safely ensconced in Christian nice-ville, is one of the current heresies of our age.
Another friend of mine has severely disabled child. It's their fourth. Another friend has a traumatically disabled child. It's their sixth, and adopted. Two of her other children also have disabilities, and she cares for her disabled sister. We know people with devastating medical bills, financial stresses that no amount of work will fix (hello, socialized medicine), those who are overwhelmed by homeschooling and on and on. Can these people handle it? Not really, no. They cope. They cry out. They pray for their Kinsmen-Redeemer (that would be the Lord, y'all) to make a way, they get depressed (lots of the faithful did and do). They carry on.

The first gal mentioned says she feels vunerable and weak now, in a way that she never did before her fourth, disabled daughter, was born. My second friend laughs instead of crying. I blog.

And here's the deal. The world will offer simple platitudes: quit having more kids; put your disabled sister in a home, don't adopt the orphan who would die without a family to care for her, the school system is just fine; get a job, live the status-quo, quit acting like what's normal isn't good enough for you (homeschooling insult #37), let someone else take care of it, don't bother, save for retirement, think about yourself, live the dream.
Someone commented that being weak and vulnerable is a great place to meet Jesus. When we are strong we don't spend a lot of time seeking. We have it going on. Dont' get me wrong. I love competency. One of my biggest struggles the last 1/2 decade is that I've been thrown into one area after another in which I am not competent. I've been on the upward slope of an incessant learning curve. It's been painful, hard, exhausting work. I hate that.  And frankly, people are not kind towards the incompetent and faltering. Because, they reason, (read justify), if I can make a go of it, why can't you? Because, they reason, how did you get to be this old and not know this stuff yet?

The deal is that houses burn, healthy people have disabled babies, siblings and parents die young, pets don't live forever, adoption agencies lie in desperate situations, faithful people take risks, and there are no guarantees about outcomes.
The story of Gladys Alward, former Christian missionary to China, recounts a touching and tragic tale. Jennie Lawson, her mentor in China, who trail blazed the the work before Gladys arrived, had a Chinese helper who became a Christian. At one point, Jennie, her helper and their church was rounded up by the Communists and told to recant their faith in Christ. They refused. The terrorists took the family of Jennie's helper- his wife and children- locked them into a hut in front of them, and burned them alive. He was forced to stand helplessly by and watch, hearing the cries of his family as they burned, begging God to intervene.

That, my friends, was more than he could handle. He did not recant his faith, but he was never really o.k. after that. My guess is that if it were now, we would say he had PTSD and clinical depression. But really, what he had was a case of devastating loss, incredibly cruelty and a mortal brain that could not fathom what God would mean by this for him- in other words a case of far more than he could handle. We live in such a dressed up, clinically sterile church in America, we forget that suffering is the way of the Cross. We forget that God makes all things new. But in order to do that, we have to offer him the old, the worn-out, the devastated, the mess, the heart-ache, the bills, the disease.

The fall of our house fire Dr. Dh had started teaching the book of Job to a group of young men. They joked every week about how our life was so "Job-like". It was funny to a point, but hard to live it. And it just kept getting more intense. The reality is that God allows Satan to sift the faithful. And if you consider yourself faithful and have never been sifted, or are not currently being sifted, I would encourage your to reconsider your status as, "faithful." I'm not encouraging you to find debt or disease just for the sake of it, but I am saying maybe you need to take more risks for your faith. Quite living so safely.

God loves the weak and vulnerable. He is tenderhearted towards those who can't handle it. He redeems them. And when we have more than we can handle, He steps in and makes a way. When we are overwhelmed by circumstances and choices and bizarre happenings in our life and are miraculously redeemed, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was not of ourselves, but the Lord, who acted on our behalf.

Prov 3:34- God opposes the proud, but gives favor to the humble.

The Message (MSG) 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
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Lisa W said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment! We are allowed to struggle, to be pressed and even broken. This is not a sign that we aren't good enough or even loved, it's how precious metals are refined and the slop rises to the top to be scooped off. But it's NOT easy. And sometimes we don't let go of our gunk. And really, most of the time it makes absolutely NO SENSE to us or our loved ones, ever. There doesn't have to be an answer that fixes everything. There just has to be faith in G-d, like Job had. Like many, many, many others have had. Suffering and unfortunate situations have happened since the beginning. But someday they will be stopped...

LaughingLioness said...

Yes- just faith in God. So simple amdist this crazy life. Thanks, Lisa. Praying G-d redeems all of the brokeness you've experiences!

Lisa W said...

Todah my friend. :) He has, He does, and He will continue to do so.

May you find peace and rest from the craziness of your life as well, and deep healing from the hurt. He truly does have the balm that heals all.

Tess said...

I really really really despise the "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" line. Excellent post, Lisa. He does step in and He does so in amazing ways and in ways that cause our faith to become stronger but it is sifting and it is challenging.

Karen M in FL said...

I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie Proctor said...

Great read! For me when things are at their worst and someone says, "God is in control". I just want to scream. God is not in control of all the sin and sickness around me. What he is in control of is my Eternal life where I will live in victory one day!! That is my hope and why I carry on each day. God does not control the choices all these people make that affect my life each day. What he controlled was the plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ. I think him daily for that.

LaughingLioness said...

Thanks so much for your comments! It's so true that Christ controls the ultimate outcome but people make thier own choices along the way.

Brandy brockhausen said...

Oh wow! I so agree with this. While I do think it is true that God has a plan, I also think this plan often includes pushing us way beyond our comfort zones!

Erica B said...

So, so true! I even found a verse in the Bible to back up my disagreement with that statement "God won't give you more than you can handle". It's found where Paul was going through trials and he writes about God allowing him to be pressed beyond measure! Thanks for a refreshing take on this!

Anonymous said...

I love this message! This is so true! I think people tend to say, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle," because they don't know what else to say. They are uncomfortable with the fact that real life is very challenging and can't be fixed easily. God needs us to get to a place that he can reach us. Unfortunately that is normally when we are at the bottom and not floating high on life.

SarahElisabeth Jones said...

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." I don't think that I would have made it through the last few years without this verse-often we have to walk through difficult paths.

Annie Kate said...