There is a lot of bad theology out there. There are a lot of stupid things we have said about God that has made God into “our own personal Jesus.” (To quote my favorite 80’s band). We have personalized, minimized and materialized God into a god. There are a lot of things that have been said about God that are just not true. I have a good list going. But there is one thing that we say, that must never be said again. Ever. There is one thing we must stop saying. And that is this:
God will never give you more than you can handle.
That is by far the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I find it insulting to both God and the person who is faced with the impossible thing. This statement has no Biblical grounding. Read the Psalms and you will find the opposite theology. You will find people lamenting, grieving, struggling, and suffering. Nowhere do you find a Psalm that says, “Thanks for giving me this enemy who is shaking me down, and thanks for the pain in my back. I can handle it. You could probably give me one more hardship and call it good.” Moreover, and to the greater point, God is not the distributor of pain and suffering. God is not Zeus. God does not delight in seeing people suffer. God does create a playbook for each of us in which He says, “O.K. I will give him this disease, this divorce and this detriment, that should do it.” (I do, however think God speaks in alliteration.)
But back to my rant. We have to stop this. We have to stop saying stupid things about God when bad things happen. We have to stop thinking that somehow we can handle the burdens of our lives because somehow we are tough enough to handle them. “Well, the tornado came through and took my house and I lost my job and no one in my family ever talks to me, but God will never give me more than I can handle, so I better toughen up and handle it.” (Insert your favorite expletive.)
My heart is heavy with people who are heavily burdened. My list is long, I don’t know where to start. I’m sure you have a list too. Maybe you include yourself as one in pain, one who is grieving, one who is suffering. Here is what I believe to be true: God is closer than the air we breathe. God is in the messy, yucky, painful, awful, smelly, unfair, difficult parts of our life. Not because God wills it, wants it, or planned it, but because God is the Mother Bear of all Mother Bears and would never let Her children suffer alone. You know the kind of Mother I’m talking about. Maybe you resemble Her. Maybe when your child is suffering, you suffer for them, with them and even more than they. God is like that, tenfold. God is the Bulwark, the Mighty Fortress, the Strong Deliverer. You know, when the nightmare happens? The one from which you cannot wake? God creates a foundation under you and puts a shield around you and holds you tight. Like an anchor in the storm. He’s got you.
So the next time that awful thing happens to our friends and loved ones and we shake our heads and wonder how they are going to get through it, and we think we need to say something, or even be a little pious and suggest that we know the will of God, it would be best if we said nothing at all. Just be still. Sit with them in their suffering. Just be present. Be humble enough to recognize that we don’t have all of the answers, nor do we need them. We only need to know that we are shielded, protected, held and beheld by one greater than ourselves. If we can do that, we may come to hear a Still Small Voice, who has something profound to say. If we are quiet enough to listen.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where will my help come? (Psalm 121)