Psalm 28: 7The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
I’ve been a Christian since I was a young boy and consider my knowledge of the Bible pretty good, so I’m taken back a bit when someone challenges me on a pretty basic theological point. A few years ago a pastor friend, Ken, was going through a challenging time and I tried to encourage him with what I’ve heard many Christians say before: “God won’t allow you to go through more than your can bear”. But he responded: “where does it say that in the Bible?”. I began to immediately quote: “God is faithful, he will not allow you….”. I caught myself in mid sentence, “1 Corinthians 10 is referring to temptation isn’t it?”. Ken smirked and said “exactly; God’s very happy to give us more than we can bear when it comes to trials.”
I was corrected. He was right. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find scripture suggesting God wouldn’t give us more than we could bear, but rather there is plenty of scripture that talks about God helping bear the substantial burdens that we do face. I recently went through such a period. There were significant stresses with the extended family; work was busy and stressful; I had to take my father to the hospital for a procedure and awaited results of a biopsy; then the following week I had to take my mother to the hospital for severely elevated blood pressure. Best of all this was days before we moved into a new house, rented out our old house, and less than a week before Christmas. I recall when I got the call from my mom regarding her heart – I looked up and said: “really God?!”. Walking with the nurse who was monitoring my mom’s hypertension, I said: “please don’t test my blood pressure right now!”.
Chatting with my son about all that was transpiring I talked about how sports had done a good job of preparing me for adversity. Extreme distance events, in particular, taught me how to push my mind and body well beyond the point where it was telling me to stop. Team sports taught me perseverance through many trials. And as I considered those who crossed my path in my lifetime, there was a strong correlation between athletes and their ability to traverse difficult times. Having said that, even the strongest athlete can reach their breaking point. Life can throw more at you than you can bear. Some people choose to medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. Others simply cannot cope and have a mental breakdown. But as Christians, what is God’s intent in these times?
For one, God allows difficulties in our lives to create a mature character in us. “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 3b-4). Secondly, and more importantly, God allows trials, beyond what we can bear, so that we don’t bear them on our own. “28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” (Matthew 11: 28-30). Notice that God doesn’t offer to take our burdens away, rather he offers his yoke and he offers to co-labor with us as we take on these burdens.
There are two ways we can fail in the trials we face. One is to simply buckle and say I can’t do this and adopt unhelpful coping mechanisms. The other is to be self-sufficient and shut God out from the whole process. You will face trials beyond what you can handle. In those times, choose to tuck into your Father in heaven.