“God won’t give you more than you can handle” is a popular phrase that I’ve heard a lot in Christian circles. Sometimes it’s almost used as a joke. “God won’t give me more than I can handle, but He sure does trust me a lot.”
The truth is, that’s not what scripture says, and it can actually give a false sense of God and His character.
What scripture does say is that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). It doesn’t say that God gives us temptations, but that He won’t let the temptations become too much for us. There’s a large difference between God giving us something and God protecting us from something. James 1:13 is very clear on this subject: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.”
Going back to the phrase “God won’t give us more than we can handle”, the idea that hard times are given to us by God can be damaging and makes it sound like He is the one who is causing our pain and our grief. It’s easy to look at Job in scripture and see someone who was given more than any one man should be able to handle, but it is also clear that God was not the one who gave him those tests and trials. Instead, when satan came against Job, God limited satan in what he was allowed to do (Job 1:12). Today, we have even more of God’s protection. The enemy can no longer come before God and accuse us because Jesus Himself is our advocate. 1 John 5:8 says that because Jesus holds us securely, the evil one cannot touch us.
Additionally, the idea of “more than we can handle” points to an unfair and unjust system, which is the opposite of God’s character (Job 34:12). Why should Person A be given more hardships just for being stronger than Person B?
Ultimately, it’s not about what we can handle. In fact, I would say we are often given more than we can handle. No parent should ever have to go through the pain of losing their child. No child should ever bear the weight of abuse. No person should ever feel the need to contemplate whether or not their existence matters.
In 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, Paul wrote to the church, “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” Those are certainly not the words of someone who felt like they had a handle on the things happening around them. He continued, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
We were not built or equipped to handle everything the world throws at us; that’s why we needed a Savior. It’s not about what we can handle, but what He can handle.
A more accurate phrase for Christians to use is, “We can never be given more than He can handle.” There is no burden too large or too small for our God. There is nothing the enemy can attack us with that we can’t surrender to the one who is abundant in power and love for us.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33