More Than You Can Handle

Yesterday I saw a statement that I have seen many times before.  I felt the same irritation as the other times.  It’s a pretty simplistic statement.  Well, it’s not really but I think it is often said without much thought and so I’ll call it simplistic.  I’m sure it gives some people (who say it) some type of peace, and so I guess that is a good thing.  But for me?  It reminds me how easily some people miss reality for so many others.

The statement?

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle

First things first.  I believe that our interpretation of who, or what God is happens to be an individual thing and because of that I’m not going to get into that.  What, or who dishes out what we can, or can’t handle is really up to you.  Your truth is all that matters for you.  My truth is what matters for me.  It’s not really relevant to this post.

The statement above is about how much we have to deal with in life.  Some people choose to believe that we will never get ‘more than we can handle’.  I don’t agree.

Ask a parent who has just lost a child to suicide as a result of bullying.  Ask someone who has been wrongly accused of a crime, and their life and reputation is left in tatters.  Ask someone who has lost everything in a disaster.  There are so many scenarios where, if we were put in that particular situation, then perhaps we’d think there was a “more than I can handle” point.

I believe that mental illness is often (although not always) caused by ‘more than we can handle‘.  It was for me.  Life got to the point where I couldn’t handle any more, and I crashed into depression and eating disorders that almost took my life and certainly took over my life.

I also believe that my father died because he had ‘more than he could handle‘.  The stress of continual earthquakes which destroyed his home and possessions, as well as leaving great uncertainty for so many people dear to him, literally stopped his heart and took his life.

Death is often about ‘more than we can handle‘, whether it be physically or emotionally.  Suicide must surely be about ‘more than we can handle‘, not to mention addictions, self harm, psychosis.  Some things happen that very nearly destroy us.  Maybe we eventually climb back and rebuild our lives but those things have a lasting and devastating effect on us.

What concerns me is how soul-destroying ‘simple’ statements like this can be.  It seems to me to miss the point of the extreme suffering that someone might be under.  And there is little empathy or compassion in such a statement.

This post isn’t about my own suffering, although there have definitely been a few times where I had ‘more than I could handle‘.   Rather it is about the suffering that I see around me.  It is wrong for us to simplify it all and yell “get over it” because ‘you can handle it’.  Actually we can’t know that for another person.

If you want to believe that, fine but we don’t support those around us in any way by telling them that.  Personally I think that all it does is pile on the guilt and shame for someone who has more than they can handle.  Yes we can hope, but we should never assume.

But then, that’s just my opinion.  It’s not something I would ever say to someone, and that’s all I’m saying.  I’m sorry if it’s depressing.  It’s just we need to think before we speak, especially to people who are suffering.


“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” 

― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

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19 thoughts on “More Than You Can Handle

  1. I’m going to share this on my facebook page. Even though the statement is attributed to God, nowhere in the bible does it say that. I agree with your views. I know my mental illness flareups come when there is more than I can handle. I’m getting better at using the tools I’ve learned to ride the bumpy road through them. Thank you for this post!
    Here’s another person’s view: http://natepyle.com/confronting-the-lie-god-wont-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle/

    1. Just had to come back and say I love it. Especially

      “It is easy to spout trite Christian platitudes designed to make people feel better with bumper-sticker theology. But insipid axioms do little in the face of the actual brokenness of the world.”

      Thanks again for sharing it with me.

  2. I used to believe this phrase — until last year when I went through so many spiritual crises. I also used to believe that while we were often pushed to the edge (by God, trials, circumstances, etc.) we would never be pushed to the point where we break. Then I broke 20 years ago. I thought, after I was put back together very slowly, piece by piece, that I could never be broken again — I didn’t think I could handle it and therefore my deep faith in Who I believed God to be at that time didn’t think He’d allow it. Then I broke again . . . and again. I guess what I’m trying to say, Cate, is another way to look at phrases like this one that become part of what we say to each other — sometimes as solace, or sometimes in ignorance, or sometimes simply because we do not know what else to say and feel we must say something — is that it depends upon what we’ve gone through in life. Yes, people say ignorant things to others like “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” when you just want to scream “DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD IF I POSSIBLY COULD?!?” Yes, some say it out of unease because they don’t know what to say. Yes, some say to others the phrases they say to themselves every day so that they are able to get themselves through that day.

    Maybe I’m still looking at this naively by still thinking there are still far too many good people in the world than there really are — a lesson you’d think I’d have taken to heart by now — but I still think most of the time these phrases are said because the one saying it simply has no conception that there could ever be another way to view things, another way to live life, another way at all other than the way they’ve experienced life. It is only when an individual actually experiences something else, something they could never conceive of happening, that they can understand how ignorant, how placid, how hurtful, how just so very wrong some of the phrases that become part of everyday human language can be to others.

    I think it would be a very good thing if every human would learn to become comfortable with silence. If we did that, when someone we love or someone we meet is hurting we could just hug them, hold their hand, pat their hand, or simply say, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” If we just said those words and nothing more, it would convey everything that needs to be said. Then, if we needed to or if they needed us to, we could sit in silence with each other knowing we’ve said it all, while the other person knows we recognize their pain — whether we understand or not doesn’t matter — and we wish they didn’t have to experience it.

    This is just my opinion based upon what I’ve gone through in my own unique and individual life. 🙂

    1. I like your opinions. (and you should never say they are “just” your opinions). I’m inclined to agree that ignorance of suffering is perhaps a reason why people say dumb things like that, but you know there is so much suffering in the world that is there to be seen if one just opens their eyes (and probably their hearts too). I know some people don’t see that suffering and some people don’t want to, but as I wrote this post I was struck with how many things I had seen/heard in the news over the last few days that involved really intense suffering. With that in mind I struggle to accept ignorance as an excuse.

      You’re quite right too about the need to sit in silence. We don’t have to fill the gaps with inane comments. Actually silence is what I wanted so many times when I was really struggling and people were trying to somehow make me feel better.

      I guess we are all humans, and I have a tendency to expect more. I guess I just hate it when people speak before they think.

      1. I truly understand, Cate. When I had radiation treatments I had to go every day Monday through Friday for about six weeks. I always had quite a time to wait for my bus to pick me up and take me home. I received my treatments at a place specifically for people with cancer. I cannot tell you how many times each day I would see people who proved to me that one can indeed “always” find others who are worse off than oneself. I didn’t have to look for it, I saw it and I heard it. Each time I saw someone without hair while mine was growing back in, I knew they were going through chemo and my heart hurt for them because that’s one of the most awful things to have to endure — having poison(s) spread on purpose throughout your entire body. Each time I saw someone in a wheelchair when I could walk, I knew how blessed I was. One day as I was waiting outside for my bus, I couldn’t help but overhear a phone conversation because the man on the cell was SO angry that he was almost screaming. He couldn’t get the person on the other end to understand what he meant. Finally he said, “I’m going through chemo and radiation treatments right now because I have cancer and they don’t know how much longer I have to live, so I’m going to hang up now.” Chemo by itself is horrible. What radiation does to skin becomes awful toward the end of the treatment (at least for me.) Going through both at once and not knowing if you’re going to live?!? I cannot imagine what that poor man was enduring!! I have no idea if he was alone, because he stepped outside to get better cell reception according to what I overheard. If he was alone — no family, no friends — that would have made everything so much worse!!

        Yet, Cate, I’ve also known people in my lifetime who seem to live a blessed or charmed life. It seems like troubles just don’t come to their doorstep. I haven’t a clue why that is!! Some believe in God and say it’s all because of Him (and I won’t get into how wrong that is to think that when others believe and have nothing but troubles!!) and others have no spiritual belief at all. It seems to me that these people I’ve known, who are not mean or uncaring at all, just don’t seem to “get it.” I know they see tragedies or hear about them as they hit major portions of the globe. I know the ones who are church-goers pray for others in need. Yet it’s like because they’ve never experienced it, even though they’ll pray for others, they still just do not understand.

        I also saw a young family whose life was like that — every day a blessing, nothing bad ever happened . . . until it did. Out of the blue an accident occurred that changed each of them forever. One of them changed so drastically that it’s impacting the family to this day. When the accident occurred it was like watching something horrible happen to an innocent child. They never conceived of the idea that anything like that could EVER happen to THEM. They’re one of the sweetest, kindest, dearest, most caring, most loving, most giving couples I’ve ever known, but until it touched them directly they were just clueless. It also seems that once the door to troubles opened, it has never closed again.

      2. There’s not much rhyme or reason is there. Thanks for sharing that with me Kathy. I don’t have any words but you’ve given me plenty to think about. ❤

  3. brokenbutbeingrepaired

    Absolutely agree with you. Being told “cheer up,it could be worse” by people who don’t have a clue what’s going on is another one that does my head in. Think it is based in ignorance and often said by those wearing rose tinted spectacles.

    x

  4. I don’t think God gives us any trials and tribulations, we do enough of that ourselves. This concept comes from the Book of Job in the Old T. Despite Job’s faith in God, he was ravaged by famine, disaster, disease and great loss…. But ‘God only gave him as much as he can handle’. IMO, believers are making excuses for their idea of God – love – being in tatters

    Equally, I do not think God necessarily gives us strength or wisdom to get through “what we can handle”, but rather, our illusion (or delusion) that gives us that faith.

    1. Actually I agree with you Cat, although I admit that after years of being indoctrinated I have largely just said to myself “no, I don’t believe this” without actually taking the time to work out exactly what my reasons are. I guess it’s avoidance for now, or perhaps coping when you discover the world is a different place than I was taught. Hope that makes sense.

      1. Yes, it does make sense. There is still a part of that feels guilty for saying these things and can almost hear Christians gasp, “Blasphemous”. I still believe in God and try to follow the teachings of Jesus, but it is with a slightly different concept than our indoctrination.

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  6. Actually, the fact that anyone would have the audacity to think they know the mind of God, Who is by definition all-knowing and unknowable (at least if you’re Jewish), annoys the heck out of me. Who says God only gives you what you can stand? Look at all the people’s lives destroyed by fire, flood, earthquake, poverty, human slavery, etc. etc. etc., and they want me to believe that God did that? OK, right now I’m mad at God for making mosquitos. How about Ebola virus? What’s the sense in that? OK, I’ll shut up now. You have a wonderful blog.

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