Recently, I was listening to the struggles of a close friend of mine. They were burdened by insecurity, doubt, and worry. In the midst of the conversation, they said, "It's okay though. God won't give me anything that I can't handle, so I'm trusting that it will be okay."
At the time, it sounded perfect. God protects me, so I trust him. To me, that was the message they were trying to get across. However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to question this statement. There seemed to be a lack of faith in the tonality and language. This person was basically saying, "If God does what I ask him to do for me, then I will trust that life will be okay." In my opinion, that turns God into a genie and me into a child at Christmas-time with a laundry list of wishes. Is this the picture of God's scandalous grace and mercy?
Instead, we should approach situations such as this by responding with, "If God allows trial to come into my life, I know I can control it because He says I can handle it. I trust Him for giving me this test." By responding this way, we ask ourselves if we truly trust God. Answer this, is faith having confidence in our own ability to conquer the things God sends our way, or is faith the decision to admit our need and desperation for God to save us from our sin, and therefore, save us from our struggles so that we may gain what He would have us gain from them? Let our answer to this question reflect God's grace and mercy submerged in the truth of the Gospel.
As many do, when I listen to and discuss the topic of suffering, my mind immediately runs to the story of Job. According to the Bible, Job was a man considered to be blameless and pure (Job 1:8). Therefore, he and his faith were put to the test by God. In an attempt to summarize 41 chapters in one short phrase, Job lost everything (but God). Everything else near and dear was ripped out of his control. God wanted to teach job that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Therefore, God gave Job eyes to seek him in the dark.
Job 23:8-10, “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."
Notice, I did not say that God gave Job eyes to always "see" him in the dark, but rather to "seek" him there. The revelation of God is terrifying (we will get to this later on-remember this). Sometimes, God shields our eyes for our good. Why? Because God is God and God is good. Think back to the story of Moses in Exodus. Moses feared public speaking because he felt he lacked speaking ability. The Lord's response was, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" (Exodus 4:11) God requires us to live by faith in him under his good will and supreme power.
In the text above, Job is searching for God. In every direction he looks, he cannot find God. However, this does not mean that God is not there. Job, then, acknowledges this promise by writing, "But he knows the way that I take." We can trust that even when our eyes are not always set on God, his eyes are locked in on us. The apostle Paul shares this truth in his letter to the Ephesians by writing, "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him" (1:4). When God made the foundations of the world, he had your name and your future in mind.
When I read this passage the first few times, I failed to understand how easily it seemed Job could trust that God was near. I fall utterly short of the glory and goodness of God daily. There are far too many days where I fail to see his goodness and his nearness to me. Yet, I now see how Job trusts a God he cannot physically see. The promises of God are more than enough for us. These are just a few of the promises of God:
He gives power to the weak. He gives strength to the powerless. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
He will supply for every single one of our needs. (Philippians 4:19)
He gives us peace that this world cannot understand. (John 14:27)
He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
He has given us new life through his son, Jesus. (Romans 6:23; 10:9)
His love conquers all boundaries and barriers. (Romans 8:37-39)
While many of these texts come from the New Testament, which was written after Job's time on earth, there remains substantial evidence that numerous Old Testament characters saw and lived by the promises of God.
Psalm 98:3, "He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The whole earth has seen the salvation of our God."
2 Samuel 7:21, "For the sake of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have shown them to me."
By living by these promises of God, we can live by faith, as God calls us to. To Job, these promises were enough that He compares the fire of suffering to a fire of glory. He wrote, "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." For gold to be produced, it must remain in the fire. Even this statement is a promise of God. In other words, Job is saying that in the testing of our faith and the face of adversity, God is a refining fire and because of this, we can trust him to bring us into his glory with him.
In my opinion, this is where the disconnect occurs.
Sadly, this is the point where we, as human beings, become complacent. We mix up relying on God versus wholly surrendering to God. The difference between the two is that relying on God means that you are holding back some sort of power or authority over your life from God, keeping him from doing his good will in your life. For some of us, we are unaware. For others, we are afraid. Rightfully so.
In our culture and society, surrender is frowned upon. Here in the United States, we say things like, "'Merica!" We boast in our authority. We love to have control. Even the most minute things such as the hours of our day-we do all that we can to get our hands on controlling every bit of our mortal lives. We are like four-year-old children yelling, "Mine, mine, mine." Yet, God did not intend for us to live in our own control.
My brother shared his opinion on surrender upon revising my post and shared, "You surrender when you see something greater than what you have to offer. Truthfully, when we rely on our own power, we are actively doubting and neglecting God's power, value, and wholeness. Truthfully, whether it's pride, fear, or problems, those who fear God have faith in God. Those who don't have faith, don't fear Him; they see themselves as able." (Note: Check out his blog. He is an anointed writer and man of God!)
By this idea of surrender, we can know that the weight and beauty of the glory of God is that he is so good and so loving and so just that our brokenness cannot compare to his goodness. That is why Job responds in fright when he considers the presence of God.
Job 23:13-16, “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me."
God dwells in holy, unapproachable light. His goodness and supremacy can and should scare us. The powerful grace and mercy of God literally scared the hell out of me. For I was destined to die, walking in the path of the wicked, but God redeemed me. What we must understand is that Jesus did not die at the authority of the Roman soldiers. He died at the authority of God alone. It was the grace of God that crushed my Jesus on my cross. Yet, it is the same grace used to crushed Jesus that brought my dry, dead bones to life. Praise be to God Almighty...for if his grace were an ocean, we all would be sinking.
Job was not the only man to see a glimpse of God and respond in fright of his brokenness and of God's goodness. The prophet Isaiah, too, saw a glimpse of God through seraphim (angelic beings). His response?
Isaiah 6:4-5, "At the sound of their voices (seraphim) the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
In the New Testament, John of Patmos records his account of a vision he had of the Son of Man in the book of Revelation. This may be the most descriptive account in the Bible of what is to come.
Revelation 1:12-17, "I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sunshining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead."
In each of the excerpts from the books of Job, Isaiah, and Revelation, there is a common denominator: each man caught a glimpse of God and immediately realized their own brokenness. Phrases such as, "I fear him," "Woe to me," "I am ruined," and "I fell at his feet as though dead," all signify utter brokenness. However, the Gospel could not be the good news without both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each of these accounts goes further.
In Job's account, he already discusses that God has many plans before him. Even in the midst of his burdens and terror, Job is able to say, "Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face" (Job 23:17). Job could not see the end of his struggles on this side of heaven, but he knew that his time on earth was limited while his time with God was eternal. Therefore, he proclaimed the goodness and faithfulness of God in the midst of adversity.
In Isaiah's account, the reaction comes from the seraphim rather than from Isaiah himself. He continues, "Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:6-7). The angelic being sent a message to Isaiah proclaiming redemption, even though Jesus had not died on his cross yet. God lavished his grace upon Isaiah and those of his time.
In John's account, the reaction, too, comes from God. However, this time it was God himself speaking. Here is what the Lord said to John of Patmos, "Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades" (Revelation 1:17-18). God instilled a message of hope in John in the midst of his brokenness.
Each of these three Biblical accounts teaches us that God does not ignore our brokenness, but rather, he lovingly redeems it by his goodness. He cares far too much to leave us unchanged in our sin. He put his cares for us on a tree and called his cares, "Jesus, son of God." His care goes beyond all reason and understanding to the extent of allowing his son to die for us. He is the scandal of grace.
With all of this in mind, let us readdress the original question, "Will God give us more than we can handle?" My response is a resounding yes. In temptation, no. However, in truth? In righteousness? In love? In grace? In mercy? In justice? ABSOLUTELY!
Tell me this, is God not more than we can handle? Did the prophet Isaiah not cry out in brokenness at the sight of the seraphim? Did Job not cower in terror at the thought of God? Did John not feel as though he could not live at the glimpse of the voice of God? The recurring theme here is that while God is far too much for us to handle, he is enough and he makes himself available to you and I as an intimate God.
Therefore, God may give you something too big for you to handle, such as his grace. God may even give you a path that cannot be walked alone. Yet, his sole purpose is to overwhelm you with his goodness so that you would be drawn closer to him. His only desire is to walk you through this life and into eternity with him. As Francis Chan writes in Crazy Love, our God is an overwhelmingly relentless God. He is the scandal of grace who took on our shame. Our God does not seek to confuse and disband us, but rather to unite us under one peace of mind, that is his.
With all of this in mind, I believe that the true issue at stake is our perception and our focus. As Christians, we aim far too low. We fail to see God's greater purpose because we are too often caught up in the nonsense and selfishness of our own little world. Therefore, we must shift our focus to God alone, who redeemed each of us in Christ. He took on the scorn of our shame and our sin. The verdict of our judgment was not, "not guilty," but rather, "pardoned."
As Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, said this weekend, "It is a tragedy that we are terrified of kittens yet unchanged and unaware of the Lion of Judah." God gave us suffering as a gift to glorify Jesus. He also gave us the gift of having faith in suffering to glorify him. We must take these gifts and set our focus on Jesus alone, whom is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
God will grant you the faith to fight. We simply need to ask him for it. Our dependency relies on his independency. While we are broken, God is whole. So, let our prayer be this:
"Jesus, I fall short of your glory and deserve the deadliest punishment of all. I cannot do this alone. Yet, you saved me, and you redeemed me. You can do all things by the power of God the Father. Therefore, I come before you for two reasons: I cannot do this alone, but in your presence, I can. Because of the death and resurrection of your Son, I can do all things. You alone are worthy, O God!"
This prayer is the difference between relying on God and wholly surrendering to him in Christ. You are allowing God to do a marvelous work in your heart and in your soul. Place yourself in the presence of God, or pray that he would make himself known to you. For the soul can never say no to the One who created him.
Lastly, I want you to be encouraged by two things: one is a recent story and the other is a song.
The story is about 95-year-old Billy Graham.
The song is called "Scandal of Grace" by Hillsong Live.
Be blessed, readers and hearers of the Word.