“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I was recently reading through a devotional looking at various statements people often associate with the Scriptures, but are not actually found in them at all. In fact, when you break down these popular sayings, their foundational ideas are actually counter to the truth claims the various authors who contributed to the Scriptures make. One that really jumped out at me because I have heard it so many times is this: God won’t give you more than you can handle. This idea is popular, but is it true?
Well, no. But you can easily see why it’s so popular. The idea that God won’t give us more than we can handle is a comforting one at first glance. After all, God made us. He presumably knows our limits. He doesn’t want us to get completely blown over by life. As a result, He may load up our plate on occasion, but never beyond the point that we can’t handle it anymore. Right?!? Again, wrong!
By why? Why isn’t this true? Well, think about it. If you can handle whatever situation you are facing, do you need God anymore? If you can deal with it, are you going to cry out to or lean into Him for help? Are you going to place all your trust in Him? No, you’ll rely on yourself. You won’t have to do anything else. Because you can handle it.
Stay with me here. If God made us to find our chief fulfillment when we are leaning wholly on Him, why would He leave us in situations that allow us to find it somewhere else? That wouldn’t be an act of love on His part at all. It would be cruel. If life is only found in Him, then letting us think we are sufficient to the task of life on our own is an act of hatred. An act of love would be putting us in situations that are sufficiently beyond our ability to manage them such that we either have to lean wholly on Him or else fall flat on our faces (at which point He will help us get up again when we turn to Him even then). To us in the moment that feels terribly unloving because it’s hard and hard never feels loving. But God’s intent is loving all the same, and if we’ll receive this love as it is given, we’ll come to understand what He was doing all along.
This is like what Paul experienced in his life and about which he was telling the Corinthian church here. Paul had some sort of handicap on his ministry and life. We don’t know what it was, although scholarly types have a few guesses. What exactly it was really doesn’t matter. The point is that he pleaded with God on three separate occasions to take it away from him and He wouldn’t do it.
Let that sit on you for a second. Paul, the guy who was most responsible for the church advancing into Europe and the creation of Western culture, had something he knew was hampering his ability to do even more, and God wouldn’t remove the roadblock. Didn’t He care about the advancement of His kingdom? Why not take this thing out of Paul’s life as he had asked and let him do even more?
Because although He cared deeply about His kingdom’s advance, He cared about Paul too. He cared about the advancement of His kingdom into the world, but He also cared about advancing His kingdom into Paul’s heart.
Let’s say God had taken this thing away and Paul did go on to accomplish even more than he did in reality, who would receive the glory for this? It’s easy to say, “God,” there, but that may not be true. It would have been incredibly tempting for Paul to claim the victory for himself. After all, it was when God unleashed his abilities, when God took his governor off, that he did the real kingdom advancing. He had it in himself all along. He just needed God to get out of his way and let him work at his full capacity. God didn’t want to get outshined by Paul. That’s why He kept that block in place.
Now, let’s call that what it is: It’s an absolutely, heretically, delusionally, ridiculous idea. But it sure is an easy one to fall into if we’re not careful. And the thing is, God’s not hurt by it at all. Again: That whole line of thinking is detached from reality. God’s not threatened by things that aren’t real. That kind of thinking hurts us most. It leads us to separate ourselves off from the God who is our enabling force. It leads us to separate ourselves off from the God who is our source of life. He loves us too much to let that happen if He can help it.
So, He didn’t take Paul’s thorn in the flesh away from him. In spite of Paul’s repeatedly asking, God said, “No, I’m enough for you just as you are. Lean on Me and you’ll accomplish everything I have for you to do.” In the same way, on occasion He fills our plates so full that we can’t carry them by ourselves. He loads us up with way more than we can handle. But then, when we lean into Him, He helps us handle it so we can learn just how much more we are with Him than without Him.
So may your plate be full beyond what you can carry. May your load go well beyond your ability to bear it. May you be in so far over your head that you will drown unless you cling to your Savior. May you find out how small your abilities really are. May you discover the weight of your inadequacy, so that you can know how great is the God who loves you so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that you can be more than enough with Him.