People use a lot of cliches when they are dealing with those who are suffering. There is much truth to some of them, but it has occured to me that it might be good to spend some time examining exactly what we’re saying when we use them. Words mean things. And the words we use can effect what we believe about things.
“God will never give you more than you can handle”.
This saying strikes me as inaccurate in two aspects. The first is that it calls to mind an image of God standing back with an armful of suffering, shoveling it out to his unsuspecting children, filling them up with it until they are just about to topple over, then stops. The next picture in my mind is of a person floundering around shouldering the enormous burden while God sits back and watches. This image is not accurate, of course.
God is all good. He is Goodness, Love, Perfection. Suffering is a lack of a good. Therefore, it cannot be “given”, and even if it could, it could not be given by God! Suffering is a result of sin, either directly or by the fact that Original Sin earned us a fallen world. Sickness, the toil of work, the pain of childbearing and rearing and especially death were not the original plan. God permits suffering because it honors our freedom and because, through his mysterious providence, it somehow works out for our good, if we let it. Just as he allowed his Son to suffer and so to win our salvation, so can suffering well borne, be a participation in the salvation of the world. It is not given merely for us to “handle”.
Secondly, I don’t know that it is true that he only gives us what we can handle. In real life and online I have met many people who have lost children. To be frank, there are many who can’t handle it! I don’t think any one of us can. Those who seem to be coping fairly well, from what I can see, are those who have faith. I would venture to guess that it is because we realize that we can’t handle the loss and we are reaching out for help from God.
I think this is another reason why God allows us to suffer. It is too easy when things are going really well to settle into the comfort of believing we gained all this for ourselves. But when we are experiencing difficulty, when we come face to face with the fact that we cannot control that which is most precious to us, we come to realize that we can’t make it on our own.
This is no ego trip for God. Like everything he does, it is for our good. Because even if we could control our temporal lives, our eternal ones are beyond our reach. Our salvation is more than we can handle, and if temporal things help us remember that, then we are on good ground.