“I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, and I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old. I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray. I’ve done it and will keep on doing it, carrying you on my back, saving you.” (Isaiah 46:4 The Message)
Lately, friends and relatives alike have been giving me the same advice. It’s the old adage: “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” It’s supposed to make people feel better, to lift them up and remind them that they can overcome anything. The problem I have with this notion is that it’s a fallacy. God does give us more than we can handle. He does it so that we will turn to him and depend upon him, so that he will carry us through our times of need.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites consistently found themselves successful and blessed, and then went through what we learned in Sunday School as The Vicious Cycle: Blessing, Forgetting, Invasion/Enslavement, Crying Out, Being Rescued by God, Praising God, Blessing. God clearly gave people more than they could handle.
We are promised, however, that God will carry us. In Psalm 23, we are led through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. In Isaiah, the Lord reminds us time and again that he is with us and carries us, to the point that a Suffering Servant (i.e., Jesus) will bear our burdens for us. In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us that he’s the Good Shepherd who guides us and goes before us. Human shepherds can’t protect all of the flock from danger all the time. Sometimes, sheep (people) trip, fall, get attacked, suffer illness, all sorts of things. It’s up to the Shepherd to aid us at those times. Sometimes, that means we’re too broken to do anything on our own and we need to be carried.
I’ve spoken a lot about my desire to have children and what a toll it’s taken on my body and spirit. I don’t know what fuel I’m running on anymore, but it’s not my own. I’m in a season where I’m aware that God is carrying me. I’ve been carried for so long, I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t! Even more so, I have no idea when I’m going to be standing on my own two feet (spiritually speaking). I’m broken. God has let far more happen to me than I can handle and some days, the best that I can do is just to follow my routine.
I think some of the best greeting cards I’ve seen are from a line that Emily McDowell developed for cancer patients. One of my favorites reads, “There is no good card for this. I’m so sorry.” So often we want to say profound things to encourage people and all they want is to be met in their pain. I think the Bible gets that. The Lord has been carrying us during our struggles. The best universal words of encouragement I can find in the Bible come from Jeremiah: “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (29:11 NIV). The Lord said this to Jeremiah right after he told him about the coming exile in Babylon.
No, the road is not easy and there will be hardships, but the Lord is with you and me! He is with us and carries us and has a goal in mind that we don’t yet know. And he WILL give us more than we can handle. He gives us more, so that we will remember him and call upon him to help carry us. God’s relational like that. So I’m broken and in pain, but I know that I’m in God’s arms right now. I’m still not comfortable there, but at least I know that I’m where I need to be.
Nicole can be reached via email here. The picture is one of Emily McDowell’s cards.