The barista brought us our fru-fru coffee all decorated and foamy. I would be leaving Bolivia in a couple days and my friend wanted to spend some time with me. She and I had history. You get connected to someone when you’re climbing a mountain (literally) with them.
I went to Bolivia with mountain moving faith. 13 years passed. Then in one of the darkest valleys I have ever known the decision to leave was made.
In my raw state I was in no mood for a friendly chat. I barely had enough energy to be seen in public. Her face emanated pity. When she said the next thing to console me I might have been sharp and slightly embittered.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle,” she said with a sincere smile on her face.
I stared and shook my head. I knew it wasn’t true. I cared enough for this dear friend that I wanted her to see me, hear me.
“Where’s that verse found?” I asked.
“Oh, I am not sure. I don’t know. I will have to look it up. But I know it’s there,” she said.
“That’s not a verse in the bible,” I said with a flat voice.
She insisted. I resisted.
“Let me explain it this way,” I began, “If that verse existed then it would mean that I don’t need God. If He is only going to give me what I can handle on my own then I have no need of Him.”
She stood by her belief. I would expect nothing less of her. The conversation veered to children, church, and other things. We ended the encounter with sweet embraces, kisses, true sentiments spoken with eyes and hearts locked. She is precious to me.
But I still don’t think that is a verse in the bible.
These last few years have brought more doubt than I care to admit. I doubted myself. I knew that if what I was going through was given to me by God then He hadn’t read that verse, because I could not handle what was going on.
I broke. That’s not “handling” it. That’s breaking.
I went to look it up and see if it really was in the Bible. Where do I go to find the verse? Google of course. Here’s a screen shot of what popped:
Apparently the Interwebs have some mixed feelings about this cliche too. I especially appreciate the sentiment in the lower left hand corner. Yeah. That.
Where was I going with this? Oh yes. The bible. Eventually I did land in the silky paper pages of my bible at the infamous verse:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
Evil and badness try to get at us all the time. Those Corinthians were some seedy folk and had some huge temptations to face. When I hear temptation my mind goes to one word: sin. The verse talks about the choice to take a breath and look around for a different way rather than to directly follow the path of sin. When we are tempted to sin we can find a way not to. That’s God’s faithfulness.
He’s not lumping a heap of hardship on me just so He can tell me to go handle it.
He does burden us, though. Listen:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Are you tired? Yes. Tired of trying. Tired of faking it. Tired of suffering silently.
Worn out? Um, yes. Worn out from running too hard with no rest. Worn out from allowing people to use me.
Burned out on religion? Amen. The formulas weren’t working.
Come to me. Get away with me … I did not think this would be a literal get away. Leave the mission field? Never, God! Move back to the States? That would be like a prison sentence! I said these things out loud on numerous occasions.
Now I’m sitting in my home in suburbia, U.S.A. There’s a minivan parked in the two car garage. I’m about to go to work at my part-time job that helps pay the bills. This move is not a furlough. It’s indefinite. What just happened?!?!
Most people have been extremely kind to us through this transition. The one person that has been the hardest on me is: myself. Yep. But I am learning.
I am learning the unforced rhythms of grace. To walk and work with Jesus, to keep company with Him. Even when that means ending my missionary life overseas.
I’d like to tie this article up with a nice neat bow of practical steps or keen advice. Can’t. Won’t.
Maybe we can sit a bit and let it be okay to say, “I can’t handle it.” No cliches. No quick fixes. And then just wait and see what happens when we are honest with God… honest with ourselves.