Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

How We Learn to Cry Out

During a conversation with a friend who lost a son, I asked her, “Is it true God doesn’t give us more than we can handle?” She laughed and responded, “No. And I’m living proof of that!”

Sadly, many of us face terrifying enemies believing God wants us to fight them on our own, because, after all, “He doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Perhaps it takes growing old to recognize this statement as a lie.

Aging with grace sometimes feels impossible. It is more than we can handle. Paul gave us a biblical perspective when he wrote: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. . . . On him we have set our hope” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).

It’s in those most broken places that we can learn to cry out: “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12).

Learning to Lament

In 2011, [my husband] Chuck had a widow-maker heart attack, and in 2016 he retired from pastoral ministry. A few months later he had brain surgery, which resulted in unexpected complications. Instead of going home as planned, we settled into a rehabilitation center where Chuck seemed to be in a semi comatose state. He later told me he felt imprisoned by a dark cloud, trapped between life and death.

As I watched over Chuck and prayed for him to come back to us, the Lord reminded me of the exciting days of serving alongside my husband in two inner-city churches where we learned to trust God for daily provision. I smiled at the memory of the six-year honeymoon we experienced when Chuck returned to our home church as a pastor, and I wept over the four years of church conflict that followed this idyllic time. Here I learned the meaning of lament. Then I remembered how God prepared a safe place for us in a church where everyone knew our warts but loved us anyway.

A year later, breast cancer threatened my life. During the months of intense chemotherapy God taught me what it means to receive his treasures in the darkness designed to turn my heart toward his love (Isa. 45:2–3). Four years later, I clung to God’s promise to send those treasures after the death of our son Mark.

Long-term grief taught me God is not afraid of my questions and he holds me tightly in his grip. Remembering God’s past faithfulness when fear for Chuck overwhelmed me encouraged me to hold onto the hope and confidence that no matter the outcome, our God would not abandon us in that hospital waiting room.

The surgery left Chuck with severe vertigo and loss of hearing in his left ear. Chuck’s disabilities and other disappointments in this season of life drive us to our knees, where we cry out, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, so our eyes are fixed on you.” Though our journey is sometimes hard, we are grateful for the joy we experience every day through the many blessings the Lord pours over us.

[In the Bible, there are] women whose confidence in God’s promise of a Redeemer fueled their faith. [I personally know] women who cling to Jesus as they navigate the unexpected twists and turns in their last season of life. Because of their faith in the finished work of Jesus, each woman chooses, sometimes a thousand times a day, to believe she is part of God’s bigger story and her life is about his glory.

Choose to Worship God

I am grateful for women like these who cheer us on with this declaration: God is sovereign and we can trust him. Every time God gives you more than you can handle and the more powerless you feel, the deeper into the heart of God you can travel. Our Father is not afraid of your questions, and you are safely in his grip. Take some time away from the distractions of daily life and ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to God’s word. Write out your fears and cry out to God for answers.

Ask God to remind you of his past faithfulness, and write a list of spiritual and physical blessings. Make a list of what torments and discourages you, and when you feel hopeless, pray, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, so my eyes are fixed on you.”

Over each broken place choose to worship God with words similar to the prophet Habakkuk’s prayer, and as you do, hear the voices of sisters from of old and across the world today, praying with you:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

(Hab. 3:17–18)

Content adapted from Aging with Grace by Sharon Betters and Susan Hunt. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.

Photo of Sharon W. Betters

Sharon W. Betters

Sharon W. Betters is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the director of resource development. Sharon is the author of several books, including Treasures of Encouragement and Treasures in Darkness, and is the writer of Daily Treasure, an online devotional.

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