If you were to hear about an upcoming Christian conference entitled “You Can’t Handle What God Gives You,” would you be interested in signing up? Probably not. A catchier title would be something like “Strength Conference 2011” with speaker presentations focused on revealing the secret to how we can not only handle, but have it all.
Despite the common thought “God never gives you more than you can handle,” I believe He does. He wants us to learn perhaps the most important concept: dependence on anything else but Him is no longer an option. Our job is no longer to bear the burdens of life. Jesus comes right out and says it in Matthew 11:28 – we are to bring our struggles straight to the throne. Sin produces its own consequences, but even in those self-created difficulties, we still must have dependence on the rectifying grace of The Lord.
The Apostle Paul reflects on this principle in the last section of the second letter to the Corinthians. He talks a good deal about how weak he is. He calls it “boasting” in the NIV version – Paul is bragging about being a weakling! He is openly and immodestly discussing all that is wrong in his life.
But Paul doesn’t do this for the sympathy vote. Indeed, the joy in his voice – at sharing in the sufferings of Christ – is palpable. What he wants his readers to understand is how he goes on in the face of his situation. There is power in pain. There is power in trial. There is power in hardship. But the power is not our own.
Paul could not handle all being put upon him; he begs the Lord for relief not one but three times. The Lord says no – not because He doesn’t want to relieve His beloved missionary’s pain, but because there is greater purpose. That purpose for Paul and us is to more fully understand the victory we have in Jesus. Paul was over the moon he was given these trials because he came to realize the ultimate power could be his.
He describes the beauty of it in Romans 8:11-12, where we are given life beyond our wildest dreams – by the power Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. But the victory wasn’t gained on Easter morning but on the evening of Holy Friday. Christ’s very last words from The Cross as recorded in Luke 23:46-49 are not words of surrender. Jesus did not simply give up the ghost – He chose that very time and place to die. It was always His choice and as William Willimon writes in Thank God It’s Friday, it was the bravest, most heroic death imaginable.
“Don’t not hear these words as relenting, giving in, or giving up. Jesus is here commanding, commending and committing, going head-to-head with the powers that be, decisively taking charge…Jesus does not so much submit as he takes charge…In one last, instructive word, Jesus teaches us: ‘No one took my life. I gave my life. I committed my life to my Father.’” (p. 78,81)
We are in Christ thanks to His sanctifying work on the Cross. That is our bridge to The Father –where we can find rest when any and all burdens come our way. Our victorious life is never because we have no troubles, but because we have supernatural grace to bear us up in those times.
Let us no longer say that God will not give us more than we can handle but instead, in those moments when He does, claim them as evidence of His manifest power. Let us not always cry out for relief, but try to press our faces to the ground in worship. Let His power be made perfect in our weakness!