“God won’t give me more than I can handle.” – – – Oh, really? ☆

aaahHas anyone ever said that to you when hard times come into your life?  My guess is your answer is a resounding “yes.”  Just over the past few months I’ve heard it said to – and by – folks going through terrible health issues, financial problems, grief, or relationship fractures.  It is meant to encourage – I guess – but it implies that if we just try hard enough and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, we’ll get through whatever, because God thinks we are up to the task of “handling it.”

Well, guess what!  God knows we are NOT up to the task of handling a great many things – and we know it, too, don’t we?  The daily news is full of stories of people who yield to unbearable situations:

  •     **  Depression abounds, and some resort to suicide.
  •     **  Finances disappear, and some resort to crime.
  •     **  Relationships falter, and some resort to unfaithfulness.
  •     **  Catastrophic illness occurs, and some resort to soul-killing resignation and bitterness.
  •     **  Murder happens, and some resort to destructive revenge.

So, where in the world did this phrase come from?  Is it really in the Bible, which would make it true?  The internet has a number of articles and sermons which affirm this phrase as actually coming from the Bible.  Well, it doesn’t!  It just sort of sprang up as a re-combination of the words from this verse:

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.  (I Corinthians 10:13 – NKJV)

Let’s face it.  When unbearable temptation comes upon me, God does not promise that my unbearable circumstance will change.  He does promise to always make it possible for me to respond to it in constructive fashion.

This faulty phrase also blatantly states that it is God who actually gives me the unbearable stuff.  Can we really think that God looks at “Joe” or “Sue” and decides to put incurable cancer into their bodies because “they can handle it?”  Does He decide that a percentage of folks can “handle” desperate poverty, so He makes that happen?  Does He decide that “Mary” can “handle” long-term singleness, so . . . well, you get the point.

You knew I had to apply this to singleness, didn’t you?

Some think that protracted singleness is unfair and just too heavy a burden to bear and they will take any way to make marriage happen.  Sometimes that works out well, sometimes not.  Some come to see God as One who withholds and not One who provides.  OK – I plead guilty to having these thoughts at times as I have committed to live life according to Scriptural principles – and have always been single.

  1.  Doing life alone is too heavy to bear!
  2.  Living a celibate life before marriage is unfair and just too heavy to bear!
  3.  God doesn’t care about my feelings, and that is indeed too heavy to bear!

Living with these three elements in the context of a Jesus-follower-life can be difficult.  But, I have experienced the truth of God’s provision in the midst of the varied mix of unanswered desires and joy-filled living.

  •     **  There is promise of God’s always being with me!
    • Hebrews 13:5 . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (NIV)
  •     **  Jesus shares every aspect of my life – heavy and light!
    • Matthew 28:28-29     Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (NIV)
  •     **  He considers all my feelings to the depths!
    • I Peter 5:7   Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  (NLT)

So, my dear friends – unmarried and married:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  (Proverbs 3:5-6  NLT)

A pastor apologizes to singles ☆

wait hereAs I’ve spent time fleshing out several ideas for posts here, I kept running across this May 2015 online apology from “the church” to “singles.”  Author John Pavlovitz makes some good points worth considering, which I’ve sort of combined and summarized.  My comments are in purple – my fave color.

  1. Sometimes, unintentional segregation happens with the understandable attention given to marriage and family in sermons, programs, and activities.  The majority of pastors and ministry leaders are married folk.  I have often contended that when people marry, something happens in their brain to wipe out their memory of being single. 🙂
  2. Sometimes deep needs and unique challenges are overlooked in program planning.  Singleness covers a very wide range of ages and life stages making this admittedly difficult!
  3. Sometimes singleness is seen as an affliction to be cured or a problem to be solved.  It is neither.  While marriage is desired – and attained – by most, it cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the soul.  It’s important for married and unmarried to share their challenges without fear of judgment or lecture.
  4. Sometimes singles are seen as halves waiting to find their other half, biding time until the right half shows up.  Until then, they may be subtly treated as “less than” in social and leadership situations.
  5. Sometimes singles are given incomplete and unsatisfying advice,  Singleness is not something like adolescence.  You don’t grow out of it.  Your status may change, but it is not simply a matter of maturity or immaturity.

Now, I appreciate this apology, and I find others springing up across the internet.

BUT, I have yet to see substantive articles addressing THESE main areas:

  1. Churches have marriage sermon series and classes; how about the same energy for successful singleness?
  2. How can the church address celibacy as a blessing for the unmarried which provides attractive, compelling – and attainable – reasons to reserve intimacy for such time as they are married.  Churches are good at admonition; not so good at encouragement – that is, if it is addressed at all.
  3. How can the church help singles celebrate their age and stage?  Of course, the range is wide and diverse!
  4. How can the church better address the culture of casual sex and living together without the commitment of marriage as less than God’s intent.  “Just don’t” is not enough!

Now, I understand that I am in a minority of my peers, although it is hard to say since as an older, never-married onesome, people like me have simply faded out of church attendance at all.  There are many who are widowed or divorced and far fewer who live in faithful protracted singleness who attend.

Above all, the most important thing I can ask of my church is to help me become transformed in my spiritual walk.  Unmarried or married – God tends to our hearts one-on-one without looking at our ring finger.

 Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  (The Message)

Personally, I do consider my wonderful church to be my family.  At the same time, I experience a very real loss at not having a husband and family to enjoy ministry and grow older with, within this wonderful church family I need people to hear and understand that!

How about you?  Let me read your comments!

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