Who here has ever been told, “God will not give you more than you can handle?” I know I have had this line quoted at me several times by several different people in my family and even some close friends of mine. But there’s no comfort in that line. Each time it was quoted to me I kept thinking that sometimes life does give us more than what we can handle. It happens and there are people who seemingly have more tragedy in their lives than others. So this week, when this scripture came about in the lectionary, I kind of groaned to myself and put it down and didn’t look at it for a few days. I asked God, “How can I preach on something that I struggle with?”
While I was working in the hospital, I spent a lot of time in the wee hours of the morning in the maternity ward providing counsel to families and baptism to babies the doctors feared would not live through the night. I remember the first time this happened for me vividly. I held this tiny little baby that didn’t even weigh a pound. The child was about the size of my hand and my hands are not particularly large. And then I sat with the mother and father, as they said goodbye to their new born child. And I watched the pain on their faces and one of the nurses said to me afterwards, “Well, God doesn’t give to them more than what they can handle”.
I remember feeling a little frustrated. I remember watching that heartbreaking scene and witnessing the shear pain of those two parents and thinking that God may not give to us more than we can handle but life does. You see that type of heartbreak and you know that it isn’t going anywhere. Those parents will always feel the loss. They will always have the questions around why this happened. They may learn to live again, to breathe again, but that pain it will become a part of their lives. Those scripture passages don’t make things better. They don’t give hope and they don’t help you to breathe through the problems. But here’s the thing that was not what these passages were intended to do. That is not what Paul meant when he penned those words.
Community, love, care, compassion and interdependence are what help prop us up in those moments. Interdependence is what give us strength and lets us know it is alright to sometimes be a mess yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So I really struggled with this topic this week. I researched and read and reread this passage putting into context with the other passages around it. What it boils down to is that this is one of the most misinterpreted scriptural passages in the Bible. It speaks about temptation, not personal tragedies and family pain. God will not give you more temptation then what we are capable of handling. And everyone always assumes this means what we can handle on our own. It is not about what we as individuals can handle, but how we as a community of believers help each other deal with the sorrow and stress of life. It is not about believing that God wouldn’t give us more than we can handle; it’s about learning strengthen one another in our times of need. It is in those times despair when we are going to be the most tempted to stray from God’s path because that pain is just so deep. But as a strong community of believers, we can offer the strength needed to keep going, to keep believing in something more, to not completely lose ourselves in the tragedies of life.
The early Christianity people did not just silently struggle, silently suffering on their own. They leaned on each other. They depended on one another to give them strength against their temptations, to give them support in their struggles. Sometimes we are given more than what we can handle. Sometimes the pain and struggles we face in life are not easily made better by the simple quoting of a misused passage of the Bible. Sometimes the pain is still there. Sometimes life becomes so hard that it takes the breath away from you and you no longer know top from bottom. Sometimes our struggles in life make no sense and create a messiness that we can’t seem to figure out how to clean up.
This is unfortunately life. It is part of being human and it is alright to admit that you feel despair and frustration. It is ok to admit that we can’t feel or see God for moments in our lives. God never intended for us to walk this journey of faith alone. We were never intended to deal with the struggles of life on our own. God intended us to do so in community, surrounded by those who care for us, those who understand our pain and our struggles with God. So as a group of believers the quote, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” may bring new comfort. This passage when in context helps us to see what we are encouraged to strive for. We are being challenged to not suffer in silence away from the world, but to seek strength from our Christian community when we feel as if we are no longer able to stand on our own. We are being reminded that we are not alone. We just need to look around us to see the caring compassion of God sitting right there next to us.
 1 Corinthians 10: 13, NRSV.
(Based on 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13)