Saturday, October 15, 2011

Something I do not believe

God will never give us more than we can handle.

First of all, for the religious folks out there, this sentiment isn't found in any religious text I've ever read. It's far more likely to show up on bumper stickers. In general, I am wary of things people throw around like scripture that I've never actually read in scripture.  ("I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it" ring a bell for anyone?)

In fact, this sentiment is actually just a misstatement of a scripture found in Corinthians (God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, and let's not get into some big theological discussion about how those are two distinct ideas.)

Second, it's just clearly B.S.

Now, I don't mean to be a mean little raincloud of negativity -- if this is your personal mantra, more power to you.

But it is not true for everyone.  It's not even close to true for most people.

Logically, you know it isn't true.  People are broken by their life experiences all the time.  Is the human mind resilient enough to bounce back from most things?  I honestly don't know.  I'd like to think so, but then again, I've never had anything truly bad (on the Grand Scale of Awful) ever happen to me.  I don't want to be a total downer, but when you think of all the bad things that can and do happen to people (starvation, exploitation, degenerative disease, torture, unjust imprisonment, etc.) before you even get to death, bumper sticker theology just can't cut it. 

Some people start out life with no chance. This is not a matter of "fairness," it's a matter of logic. It rains on the just and unjust alike. So while half of me believes in a loving God who knows me personally and cares about my struggles, the other half believes in that old clockmaker God who put his chips down on the table and let it ride. (Ah yes, the patented Ru mixed metaphor.)

Personally, I don't find those two visions of God particularly at odds with each other -- I just think of God as the anti-helicopter parent.  He cares, but there will be no swooping to my rescue.

So is there a happier note coming already? Why yes, actually, there is.

In 1861, a woman named Julia Ward Howe woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down the lyrics to a song. One of those lines read, "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free."

The song was inspired by John Brown, an anti-slavery activist. In 1859, Brown had attempted to capture weapons from a federal armory and lead a slave rebellion in the South. He was caught, tried for treason against the state of Virginia, and executed for his crimes. Julia Ward Howe and her husband were abolitionists who had supported Brown's work.

Since the song was originally published, the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" have been changed to, "As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free."

With all due respect to Julia Ward Howe, I like the second version better. That's something I can believe.


  1. Food for thought...or should I say thought-filled food for the mind and soul?

  2. 1 Corinthians 10:13
    i think this is the verse that might be referenced.

    i like the saying, "what doesnt kill us makes us stonger"

  3. Wow. This is a powerful post, and I appreciate the candor behind it. You make a lot of sense, and our bumper sticker culture needs a strong infusion of sense! Thank you.

  4. See, now I always thought this particular bumper sticker sentiment was traceable to Mother Teresa, who said, "I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much."

    My personal peeve inducer is, "Everything happens for a reason." Yeah. Reasons like that guy over there decided today was a good day to be an ass.

  5. Thanks, friends :)

    Delia - definitely agree on "everything happens for a reason." Gah, what a terrible idea.

  6. Someone recently told me that people get that saying wrong all the time. That it really should be "God doesn't give us more than He can handle."

    Which doesn't make me feel that much better, but I think it captures the sentiment more accurately.

    And I never knew that about the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Very interesting.

  7. Ru, I agree with you that God is not always swooping down to rescue us from life's challenges and that we need to live to help others. However, I know that God loves and cares about us very much and is always aware of what we're going through. I've been thinking about this post of yours all week long, and have written my own post about this subject today. I don't know if you have heard of The Book of Mormon, but that's where I get a lot of comfort about the challenges of live. My post is at