When It’s Too Much

I hear it tossed around in Christian circles like pennies in a wishing well.  To the person heavy-laden with burdens, grief, fear and doubt there is bestowed on them the best scripture we know that has something to do with them and their situation– or so we think.  It’s a beautiful scripture and it goes like this:

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The word in the original word for “tempted” can also mean “tested in a way that leads to temptation.”

With temptations, God gives us escapes.  Sometimes we take them and sometimes we don’t; but temptations and pain are two different things.  I do think that God allows us to experience more pain in life than we can bear.   Sorrow and grief are unbearable and different from temptation.  (2 Corinthians 1:8, Matthew 26:36-39)

Tell the woman who lost her husband and sister within months of each other that God won’t give her more than she can bear and she will likely throw something heavy at your head.   Ask Jesus, who, fully human, bore the weight of the world and sweat drops of blood while asking God to take the burden away, if His grief was bearable.  With pain and suffering there is no escaping (Not without numbing, that is.) Jesus asked others to pray with Him, and stay awake with Him through His passion.  His pain and stress was overwhelming, still He chose to embrace it rather than run from it or numb it.  Why?

The crazy thing about pain is that it is felt at the capacity of our ability to love.  Love and pain go hand in hand.  What we open our hearts to love enlarges our capacity to feel pain.  Think about it–many things in life wouldn’t “hurt” if we didn’t first love that thing that is now gone, or separated from us.  It was C.S. Lewis’ wife who said when looking ahead at the end of her life as she was dying of cancer, “The pain then is part of the happiness now.”  If I numb myself from pain, I also numb my heart from love and cut off my ability to give and receive it.  This is why God calls us to endure pain.  To be patient.  To “hold fast” ’til the end, because pain does have an end.  Pain has an expiration date.  Love, however, does not.  Because God is love, it will continue into eternity….long after my sorrows have been washed away.  Light years after my grief was dissolved, His love remains.  Jesus knew this and was able to endure the cross “for the joy set before Him” and even despising the shame.  Jesus knew suffering would end but love would continue.

Sometimes, in order to avoid pain, I would rather tell you that “all will be well and God will take care of you” rather than be His hands and feet for you; but living the easy life, blind to pain and suffering, or at least numb, leaves me bankrupt of the love of God.  My capacity to love will be stunted if I live my life to avoid the temporary (pain) and I will completely miss the Eternal (Love/God).

I believe God allows more pain than we can bear so that others will bear it with us.  He allows us to be alone and vulnerable so we will reach for Him and others.  He walks us alone through valleys and shadows, but if we could see with spiritual eyes we would realize how we are strengthened and carried by the prayers and thoughtfulness of others who decided not to avoid our pain, but engaged in it by being God’s hands and feet.

I no longer believe in using trite expressions, quick fixes or cure-all scriptures to cushion me from your pain.  I do believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, but pain and suffering are real, heavy and sometimes unbearable.  I cannot take it away from you by telling you God won’t give you more than you can bear, but I can lift one end of your stretcher, help you bear the load and carry you to Him.

My prayers for you whose load is too much….