I’ve spent a lot of time cringing from a phrase Christians have spoken to each other for as long as anyone can remember: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
I struggled with this phrase because there were long stretches when my depression seemed like it was more than I could handle. Sleepless nights struggling with suicidal ideations wore me down to the breaking point. Grief and hurt and brokenness beyond human words weighed heavy on my soul. When someone would look at me with a broad smile and say cheerfully, “God won’t give you more than you can handle”, I wanted to be able to take all the burden of mental illness and drop it on her head.
For years the ripples of depression spread through my life. Two suicide attempts, a failed marriage, financial problems, and a long list of bad decisions or poor judgment calls followed me and I often wondered if anyone bothered to tell God that I wasn’t strong enough for all this. I couldn’t bear it.
I was being crushed.
Slowly, things began to change, though.
I found the right medication and the constant weight of depression lifted.
I found a good therapist and she helped me develop some good coping skills.
I learned to meditate and center myself on the goodness of God.
I started tracking my emotions, my reactions to them, and my spiritual journey in my journal. I began to learn from my mistakes and I began to capitalize on my strengths.
I found fellow Christians with whom I could speak candidly, without the fear of judgement.
Eventually I began to understand that I had hated that phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” was because I always heard it as a struggle I would have to manage alone.
I thought God was piling bricks on my head and I had to carry them all alone.
God didn’t create any of us to be solitary creatures, though. From the very beginning we were meant to be in community with one another. When the love of God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, community was central to every aspect of his life.
Now I can say that it is true that God didn’t give us more than we can bear, not because any one of us is strong enough to manage it alone, but because God gave us to each other.
When Paul writes about God providing a way out of the temptations that may plague us, he was offering a call to action. This call was not just for those who were feeling the weight of temptation, but to the community around them as well.
The way out is together.
Just as Jesus picked up a cross meant for me and carried it to Golgotha, we are to hold each other up. When one is collapsing, the rest of us must step in to prop him up.
When we live in the beautiful perfection of God’s Beloved Community, it is true that there is nothing we can’t bear, because we will be bearing it together.
What are your temptations? Where are you broken or hurting? What is it you feel you cannot bear? How could the people in your community help you bear those trials? What is the brokenness that exists in your community? How can you help bear those trials for others?