I hadn't seen Tim since the previous summer's ministry training in Florida. Now we were about to spend two months in a village nestled in the hills of Western New York with him and a bunch of college baseball players from all over the country. While we were visiting over menu selections and 'how have you been's, I opened up and told Tim that I was not happy with God's opinion of how much I could handle."God thinks too highly of me. I know He won't give me more than I can handle, but He thinks I can handle too much."
|Our family picture taken around the time of the conversation|
at Chili's, 2003.
I was not in tune with my own feelings and emotions enough to know that I was overwhelmed and angry. I had a mistaken idea that you had to be full of joy to be full of faith. In my effort to be a good Christian and a person worthy of a ministry position, I invalidated my heavy emotions with bible verses like Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, and cliches like God doesn't give you any more than you can handle.
From where I'd heard it exactly I couldn't remember, but I believed that God wouldn't give me any more than I could handle. My success at handling it was a measure of my faithfulness, goodness, worth. Any discouragement over struggles were a measure of my lack of trust in His goodness. Some well-intentioned people even told me as much. I needed to succeed at handling my load! My faith depended on it--or, a least, that's what I thought had been implied. And so I buried any discouragement I felt and avoided introspection at all costs.
I avoided introspection for fear of discovering ugly emotions that might make me feel not very good or worthy. That might make me feel unacceptable in God's sight. If you don't acknowledge it, it's not there. Or, If you don't acknowledge it, it will go away. These are strategies for handling difficult situations that I'd lived with since I could remember. Strategies that sent my heavy emotions so deep inside of me that I did not even recognize them.
That night at Chili's with Tim, we were visiting with the ministry leaders the night before the baseball players arrived from all over the country to spend the summer with us. I was excited about the ministry about to happen. It was our first mission trip assignment after having reached our financial support goal. This is what we'd spent two long years of support raising to do and I was full of anticipation of what God would do in the lives of the young men who we'd be working with. But I was also battle scarred from all we'd been through the past three years. In an unguarded moment I made the cliche statement about God not giving me more than I could handle and Tim called me on it.
"That's a lie," he said again, this time not quite so loudly. "God does give us more than we can handle. We can't handle anything. We need God. That's the point." I swear, his eyes were dancing when he challenged me with "tell me where in the bible it says that God won't give you more than you can handle." Sensing a trick question, I tried to remember where in the bible I'd read it. He took my silence as an invitation to continue. I suppose it was.
He leaned in, like professors do when making a point they want you to remember,"People quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 where it says 'God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear.' (ah, that's the passage I was looking for!) But being tempted to sin and handling circumstances are two different things. (What? They are? They are!) Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8, said that he was overwhelmed to the point of despairing of life, but that only made him rely on God more. (Paul was overwhelmed? He despaired? Paul was overwhelmed and he despaired!!) Jesus said in John 15 that apart from him we can do nothing. We have to rely on God for strength to handle any circumstances."
Time stopped right then as what he said sunk in to my heart. I had believed a lie. God actually does give us more than we can handle because we can't handle anything without Him. My feelings of being overwhelmed is not a reflection of my success or failure. It's just a reflection of my need for God. What a relief.