One of the phrases I used to say to people going through tough times was a common saying I had heard many others use as well:  “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  It was a way of saying that no matter what happens, a person can get through it.  But then one day I read an article in which the author said: “I guarantee you God will give you more than you can handle.”  Now, before I go any farther with this thought, let me say that I do not believe that God sends affliction upon us.  I do not believe that God gives someone cancer or heart disease or diabetes or a broken limb.  God does not cause wrecks, suicides, or the death of infants.  So, even in saying “God will not give you…,” I interpret that more as saying “You will not go through….”

Regardless of the phrasing, though, as I read the article I realized how wrong I had been in saying this statement even though it was well-meaning.  The author who wrote that she guaranteed God will give us more than we can handle talked about how if it was not for the power, presence, love, and grace of God in her life in her time of great struggle, there is no way she would have made it through that time.  The point of the article was that while there are times in our lives in which we will go through more than WE can handle, we will never go through something too great for GOD to handle.

Now, I will also say that while in the midst of the struggle, such words can sound like empty platitudes.  In the midst of great pain and sorrow, words can sound hollow.  And yet, IT’S TRUE!  Even when it is hard to accept, even when it seems impossible to understand, even when it seems like you are going to drown in the situation, and even when you express your anger to God, God is always there.  God never abandons you.  God understands.

What I have discovered in my own life, and what I have witnessed in being with others in the midst of the darkest valleys of their lives is that God’s grace and God’s strength sees us through to the other side.  It is not easy.  It is not simple.  And there is great pain along the way.  But God has a way of carrying us through these times and giving us resources to deal with difficult times which go far beyond our own capacity to handle them.

I remember a mentor of mine, the late Rev. Guss Shelley, telling a story about a professor in seminary giving the class an assignment in which they were shown a picture of a horrible car wreck, and they had to answer the question:  “Where is God in this tragedy?”  He said that while he gave some sort of answer at the time, he didn’t really have a solid answer until several years later when he was at the bedside in ICU of a church member who was near death.  That question “Where is God in this situation?” came back to him and he realized that the answer was, “God is right here, grieving with this family and all who love this man.”

While it may sometimes seem like an empty platitude, it is a deep truth of the magnitude of God’s love and care for us that God is present with us giving us the strength, sustenance, and resources we need to make it through the joys and trials of life.  We only have to lean upon Him, and we can trust that God will be there because God loves us that much.