“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8
An acquaintance of mine is a former Navy Seal – yeah, one of those guys. Actually, my friend (we’ll call him “Keysi” for this post, after the Keysi Fighting Method, made famous by the Chris Nolan “Batman” films) is one of the most unassuming and laid back guys I know. Of course, I’ve also never been the object of his ire so there’s that.
We were talking a while back – Keysi’s reluctant to ever discuss anything related to his active duty experiences but occasionally shares a story or two about his days in training to be a Frogman – and I asked him to tell me what got him through BUD/S training (short for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL).
Given that BUD/S generates an extraordinary 80%+ dropout rate over the six-month program and he survived it, I assumed his response would be something like “mental stamina” or “toughing it out.”
He paused a moment and then said “You know, they tried hard to break us – every minute of every day. Hell Week was one of the most grueling experiences of my life, what with the steel pier, the demo pit, the 24-hour training with no sleep, the log pole runs, the endless insults and harassment from the instructors. Did I think about dropping? Yeah, I did. More than once, although it ain’t really macho for an operator to admit it. In the end, I learned one thing: I could never get through it on my own. It was just too much. But I had my crew, my class, and my God all on my side.”
I thought about Keysi’s comment when putting this post together, especially the last part, about having God on his side. That leads me to this installment of things we think we know about the Bible but really don’t:
#3 GOD WON’T GIVE ME MORE THAN I CAN HANDLE
This belief is among the most commonly held misconceptions many have of what Scripture tells about how God works in our lives. The notion is that God will never place burdens on our shoulders too great for us to endure. Just “tough it out,” the thought goes. “God knows how much I can take and won’t give me more than He knows I can handle.”
Actually this belief is almost 180 degrees opposite from what the Bible actually teaches us. Yet as with most commonly misunderstood notions, it seems to be based in truth, in this case, on a passage from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
For me, the most meaningful part of this is passage is found, as it was with Keysi’s comment, at the end. The burden or the temptation and our ability to overcome it isn’t really the point. Rather, it’s the “way of escape” God offers that reveals the awesome power of His grace.
The truth is we’re never promised a life that won’t bury us under its weight. In fact, life itself can be more than any of us can handle. And the Bible specifically tells us this as Paul writes in the 2 Corinthians passage I quoted at the start of the this post. In this passage Paul confesses to being burdened beyond his strength. To be tested this way is a clear indication that we can experience more suffering than we’re able to handle.
The “way out” Paul mentions in the 1 Corinthians passage is found in the realization that by surrendering to God what is too great for us to bear we give to Him the weight of that burden and allow His strength to hold us up. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Paul writes of God in 2 Corinthians 12:9.
God sometimes allows us to fall into humanly impossible situations. Like Keysi’s instructors, He brings us to the end of our own strength so we will trust in His ability to do the impossible. This is the essence of faith.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28. When our trials are more than we think we can bear, that is exactly when God’s grace is most impactful.
This week, give up something seemingly impossible to God. You’ll find Him where He’s always been – right by your side. HooYah!