When God Gives You Something You Can’t Handle

Have you ever heard a Christian say that God won’t give you something you can’t handle? It’s a nice, cozy idea in theory but it quickly clashes with real life.

What about my two Christian friends who committed suicide? Should they have been able to “handle” it according to this reasoning? And what about all the families I know who are reeling in the wake of unanswered prayers for a child who died? Are they being punished because God knows they can “handle” such a tragic trial? Or what about my personal battle with anxiety and depression? Am I failing to “handle it” when I turn to a counselor for help?

While the idea that God won’t give you more than you can handle is taken from a scripture (1 Cor. 10:13), that’s not what that scripture actually says. Church people have twisted this verse into a feel-good platitude when there’s a lot more going on.

A Promise For Help And Protection

When God Gives You Something You Can't Handle | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Jantanee via Lightstock

In this part of 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking about what we can learn from Israel’s history. He talks about how Christ interacted with the ancient Israelites, the ways they displeased and tempted God, and the punishments they received (1 Cor. 10:1-10). Then he writes,

Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:11-14, WEB)

The Greek word translated “temptation” is peirasmos (G3986). It means a trial or “putting to the test” of a person’s character. When used of God, it means proving someone by bringing them “through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him.” When used of the devil, it means he’s soliciting someone to sin for the purpose of making them fall (Zodhiates’ Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the NT).

In context, the verse we’re talking about isn’t a promise that God won’t give you more than you can handle on your own. It’s a promise that He won’t let you be in a situation where your fall into sin becomes inevitable. He never sets us up to fail. Read more

A Time To Move On

Sometimes reminders to grow come as a gentle nudge. Other times they smack you upside the head.

It’s sort of the same way that God sometimes speaks to you in a still small voice and other times He uses a trumpet blast.

This past weekend the Rabbi in my Messianic church gave a message about keeping your eyes on the end goal; on what the “song-writer” of your life has planned for you. The part of this message that really stood out to me is what he said about moving on from grief. He started by reading this verse:

Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided a king for myself among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1, WEB)

Because of Saul’s disobedience and pride, God rejected him and moved on to the next step in His plan. He gave the prophet Samuel time to grieve Saul, since there is “a time to mourn” (Ecc. 3:4), but now God expected him to move on. Similarly, in our lives, there is a season to mourn when something bad happens. However, we’re not meant to stay there.

I was already thinking about my breakup that happened 4 months ago when the rabbi started talking about this subject, and then he specifically used a relationship ending as an example. So when he said, “There are a few people here who really need to hear this message” I felt like I was definitely one of them.

How long will you keep grieving over something that is past and can’t be fixed or recovered? he asked. We need to look to the end, trusting God has better plans and a new season waiting for us. There are times when our situations have to come to a point where things look dead before God can raise up something else that will produce fruit. And all of this ties-in to my own blog post from Saturday, “Are You Growing Or Shrinking?”

I’m starting to feel like God’s trying to get my attention. Read more

Are You Growing Or Shrinking?

A couple weeks ago, a speaker in one of my church groups asked, “Are you using major disruptions in your life to grow or to shrink?”

This question really hit me. As my regular readers know, I’ve had some major disruptions in my life over the past year. They’ve been prompting lots of personal growth, but they also come with the temptation to hide from that growth. There are days when the last thing I want to do is keep going. I want to curl up small in a nest of fluffy blankets and let the whole world go by without noticing me.

One of the main reasons God lets us go through trials is to give us opportunities for growth. In scripture, this is often refereed to as a testing or refining process designed to make us more like God. He doesn’t expect us to fully become like Him in this life. But He does want us to keep growing toward that goal, not shrinking away.

Growth-Ready Mindset

When I say we shouldn’t be “shrinking” I don’t mean that we have to be big, excessively confident, loud, or something of that sort. God can use people like that, sure, but He also uses the quiet, small, “little people.” He works equally well with meek Moses and brash Peter.

God likes working with people who can recognize they’re not complete yet. Everyone must be brought to a point of humility — a place where we know how much we need God — before we can start growing. Read more

What’s Behind The Facade?

Yesterday my sister and I went to see a community theater’s production of the musical Jekyll and Hyde. It’s a show that our cousin introduced us to years ago through the soundtrack and we were excited to it on stage. I’m not sure I’d call this a favorite play, but the music is fantastic and the story line prompts some intriguing questions about the nature of human kind and how our personalities work.

Jekyll and Hyde is a classic tale of good and evil. The play is quite different from Robert Lewis Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the original version, Jekyll develops a serum to separate his darker side because he’d already started indulging his vices and wanted to keep doing so without fear of discovery. The play offers a more compelling protagonist; a Jekyll searching for a cure to evil on a grand scale. If you’re curious, you can watch a really good high school production of the play on YouTube by clicking here.

This isn’t the sort of play that I recommend frequently. It’s dark. It’s complicated. It’s more sexual than the scandalized ladies sitting behind me expected. It doesn’t end happy (don’t look at me like that — you don’t get spoiler warnings when the book’s 132 years old). But it’s also a deeply compelling story that dives head-first into tough questions about the nature of man.

The play opens with a question: what if we could separate man’s evil nature and leave only the good? The song “Façade” talks about the “face that we wear in the cold light of day” to please society. That’s our good side. But “the truth is / That it’s all a façade!” We hide our true self “behind all of our fears” and it only comes out when “the nighttime appears.” What we hide includes the evil side. It’s the “sinister secret” “that each man you meet / In the street / Isn’t one man but two!”

Man is not one, but two,
He is evil and good,
An’ he walks the fine line
We’d all cross if we could!
It’s a nightmare
We can never discard
So we stay on our guard
Though we love the façade
What’s behind the façade?

This is the basis of Jekyll’s theory. He’s convinced he found a cure for evil and so he starts experimenting on himself. The first in a series of potions he takes creates Edward Hyde. Though it’s not explicitly stated, it seems that Jekyll believes his experiment was in part a success. He did split evil from good in his personality. He just didn’t succeed in getting rid of it. He really is what the ensemble was singing about in “Façade.” He isn’t one man any more, but two. He (Jekyll) is good and the other (Hyde) is evil.

But things aren’t that straight-forward. In fact, the whole play works to subvert the opening insistence that good and evil are something you can neatly separate. Dr. Jekyll didn’t cut his nature in half the way that he’d planned. He gave his evil nature a persona to play in by itself, but he didn’t get rid of it. Hyde recognizes that fact but even in the climactic “Confrontation” song Jekyll is still in denial.

[Hyde] Can’t you see, you are me?

[Jekyll] No! Deep inside—!

[Hyde] I am you! You are Hyde!

The play’s final message is not “that each man you meet in the street isn’t one man but two.” It’s that the true danger lies in denying the darker, more troubling sides of our personalities. Living behind a façade isn’t right — those people are just using “goodness” to hide the evil they’re doing in the darkness. Denying your dark side isn’t the answer either — splitting Hyde from Jekyll just makes him more powerful.

What's Behind The Facade?| LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo by kellepics on PixaBay

So what do you do? You stop hiding. Face the parts of yourself that you don’t like and deal with them. No short cuts. No denial. Pretending that evil doesn’t exist or that you can easily control it just gives the darkness more power. You’re a whole person — not split into evil and good — and you have to take responsibility for everything that’s a part of you.

I’m going to assume most of us here aren’t hiding murder and other such things behind our façades. But many (perhaps most) of us are living behind some kind of mask. We hide parts of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, that might hurt others, or that scare us. We don’t like to be seen as we are so we split ourselves. We put our “Jekyll” on display and keep “Hyde” safely tucked away.

Now, I’m not saying you need to go around spilling out every dark secret you’ve collected to everyone you meet. But if you really want to change something inside of you you can’t ignore it. You need to confront it and be honest about it with yourself and with God. He already knows everything, but He wants us to be authentic with Him when we ask for help. When we acknowledge all of ourselves — the good and evil — and then we can start changing and moving toward being the best versions of ourselves. We can truly put aside the façade and start living authentically.

Fighting Something You Can’t See

Choosing to follow God means we’re walking in harmony with Him. And that means we’ll be walking out-of-step with this world and with “the god of this world,” as Yahweh’s adversary is called (2 Cor. 4:4). In many ways, our Christian walk is one of warfare and struggle.

One of my ongoing struggles is with anxiety. My mind wants to loop through worst-case scenarios and imagine all the “what if?”s in a given situation. I’m often nervous, jumpy, and preoccupied with what’s going on in my head. My anxieties are something I can’t see, and unless I tell people about them or have a panic attack in public most wouldn’t have a clue how much it impacts my life (they call this “high functioning anxiety”).

Scriptures tell us that as Christians, the battles we face have spiritual components. These sorts of battles are difficult whether they’re visible to other people or not; whether they’re internal or external. But even when we feel like we’re battling something we can see — a nasty coworker, a disease, a failing relationship — Paul reminds us that we “do not wrestle with flesh and blood.” There are spiritual forces behind all the battles we face (Eph. 6:12). And we can’t see the full extent of our battles, or fight them effectively, without God’s help.

The Usual Type of Battle

It’s often a struggle for me to answer the question, “How’ve you been?” or “How was your week?” Unless something electronic breaks or someone I care about is going through something, my weeks would usually look pretty good from the outside. And I don’t want to tell most people that I’ve been struggling all week with something that’s only a problem inside my own head.

There’s a stigma against admitting you’re struggling. You might be seen as a saintly example of endurance if you’re facing a physical trial. But in many churches it’s a different story when you’re battling something mental or emotional. So many people see interior struggles as either a lack of faith or something that you could just “get over” if you prayed about it enough. However, there’s a passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul makes it sound like struggles within ourselves are the kinds of battles Christians usually face.

For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, WEB)

Our warfare isn’t primarily a physical battle. It’s a spiritual and internal one that can also spill over into our outer lives. Even when the Adversary uses outside attacks it’s still part of a battle for our minds, hearts and spirits. It’s well past time for Christians to recognize this and start supporting each other through the invisible battles we all face. Read more

Anxiety Kitty: The Not-So-Surprising Way Pets Improve Mental Health

Remember that nervous cat I adopted a few months ago who spent all his time hiding under couches and beds or in closets? (click here to read “Lessons From My Nervous Cat”). My plan was to pour as much patience, love, and understanding into his life as I want people to show me when I’m scared. I wanted to show him that he had a safe home now.

Well, it’s working. Flynn is turning into quite the friendly cat, especially with me but also with the rest of the people he sees every day. And he’s even getting better around non-family members. We had several people over for dinner last night for a total of 14 humans around. Flynn hid when they were all in the house together, but after we sat down to dinner (some outside and some in the dining room) he actually wandered around out in the open and let people he didn’t know pet him.

After doing some research, I learned that clicker training is the one thing people have found that helps anxious cats settle down and feel safe. No one knows why teaching a cat to do simple tricks on command combats anxiety, but it does. My theory is that when the cat gets positive reinforcement for certain actions the additional structure helps make them feel secure. Whatever the reason, it’s adorable. It’s mostly about teaching him to do things he was already doing on command (touch my fingers, come when called, jump on and off chairs, and stand on his hind legs). The “stand” command is everyone’s favorite. He’s just so cute!

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

As I’ve helped Flynn with his anxiety, he’s been helping me with mine. Before a lunch date a few weeks ago (the first since my breakup), he spent the whole morning following me around and checking in on me. Every few minutes while I was working at my desk he’d hop out of the window and walk over to “talk” with me and have his head rubbed. And when I walked into a different room he followed. Since then, he’s kept that pattern up most of the days my anxiety has spiked.

I’m honestly shocked how in-tune he is with my emotional state. A few days ago I was working on a guest post sharing my testimony about anxiety (I’ll share a link here when it goes live) and I hit a point in my writings where I just burst into tears sitting at my desk. I went for a walk outside and when I came back Flynn walked around my feet crying until I responded to him. He actually let me pick him up and hold him for a good 30 seconds (he hates being cuddled and usually wiggles as soon as you pick him up). Then a little while later when I was journaling and crying he spotted me, ran into the room, jumped up on the bed with me and stayed there purring until someone else came home. The only other times he sits on my bed with me is late at night, so this was really outside his normal behavior.

We’ve also discovered another shared love: old books. I collect Grosset & Dunlap series books (like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and others). I found two bags full of books I needed for my collection at a book sale on Friday and they’re in really good shape. Flynn acted like the bags were full of catnip. He dove into the Hardy Boys bag head first and rolled around on the books until I pulled him out and tied the bag shut so he wouldn’t damage them. Then he climbed into the bag that I’d had Rick Brant books in earlier. He looked almost as happy with the books as I am.

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

There’s just something comforting about sharing my home with a fluffy critter. Cats are my choice, but I’m sure other pet owners can relate whether they love dogs, rabbits, gerbils, or even non-fluffy pets. People are happier and healthier around animals. In fact, one survey found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says, “pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.” That’s so true for me. Adopting Flynn and starting counseling are the two biggest things that have helped me deal with my anxiety this year, as well as my post-breakup grief. I know pet ownership isn’t for everyone, and would never tell you to get a pet if you’re not sure you could take care of it. But for those of us who can have pets, they can be a huge help when you’re going through something.

You don’t need to have a mental health issue to benefit from caring for an animal. For example, I suggested in my post on developing Sensing as an INFJ or INTJ that pets can help ground these personality types in the real world. INxJ types are normally a bit out-of-touch with the physical world and there’s nothing like knowing some other life form needs you in order to stay alive and happy to get you out of your own head for a while. Whatever your personality type, pets can be a huge blessing.

What about you? Do you have an animal friend who helps you when you’re struggling with something?