When God gives more than you can handle

| Deacon Michael Nevin | August 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Most of us have heard this phrase, or with the best of intentions, offered it as a consoling word to a loved one who is suffering a severe trial in life. The phrase might derive from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, where he states, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

St. Paul is telling us, in the context of the larger Scripture passage, that God will provide the necessary grace to overcome the temptation to sin, but he doesn’t seem to be speaking about physical or moral suffering that has become essential to the nature of man after the fall of our first parents. This is why a recipient of the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” may in fact be repelled by the expression because they are perhaps suffering more than they humanly can take.

When my wife was diagnosed with cancer many years ago (she has recovered, thanks be to God!), I really believed that this trial God had allowed was too much for me to handle.

Likewise, in our Gospel passage from Matthew, the disciples of Jesus, and Peter in particular, are faced with a crisis of physical and moral suffering that was more than they could handle. Jesus knew the disciples still lacked faith, so he sent them out to sea by themselves to encounter a storm that was brewing while he went to pray alone on the mountain. The disciples were in the storm all night long, experiencing not only the physical terror of the storm, but also the moral suffering that comes with facing death. While it was still dark and the storm still lashing the boat, they saw the Lord coming to them walking on the water, and their fear grew because they believed he was a ghost. Our blessed Lord, speaking to the disciples and any of us who have faced great suffering in life says, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

St. Peter learned that the answer to enduring suffering and trials is a total reliance on the Lord’s providential care. Peter walked on water when his faith was focused on Jesus, but sank when the weight of his troubles was too much for him. God can handle our problems when we trust him.

Mindful of this lesson, perhaps we can turn the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” into “God won’t give you more than he can handle.”

Deacon Nevin was ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2010 and serves the parishes of St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran and Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto. He also works with the Institute of Diaconate Formation at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and serves at the chancery in the Office of Worship.

Sunday, August 13
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time


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Category: Sunday Scriptures