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Monday, January 14, 2008

More Than We Can Bear

I don't know about you, but I've often heard the tired old adage, "God never gives you more than you can bear."

Oh, right. That links in very well with the Prosperity Gospel, doesn't it? And in fact, the "adage" isn't even an official teaching! It's complete myth, much like the "teaching" that follows:

"Just pray in the name of Jesus, much like a Buddhist or magical mantra, and you're be fully delivered from your problems."


That's not how God works...unless, of couse, He chooses to. Because EVERYTHING is according to God's will, and is in accordance with with what is needed on behalf of our salvation.

Unfortunately, our salvation OFTEN depends dearly upon our suffering, for it is our very suffering that brings us to Jesus Christ.

The very idea that the Lord does not give us "more than we can bear" defies reality and is contrary to what scripture tells us. If this were true, then there would be no suicides, there would be no mental illness, there would be no Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or the like. The fact that these horrible things occurr are proof that God does, in fact, give us more than we can bear.

My own mother attempted suicide, (16 years ago in the throes of bipolar agony). My mother! One of the holiest people on the planet! And yet her suffering was too much to bear so she tried to end it. She could not bear her suffering.

Indeed, she was saved, so perhaps you COULD use the Lord's intervention for the great gift of her continued life on this planet. But that certainly doesn't very well explain the successful suicides of others' parents and children.

God does indeed give us crosses which are far too heavy for us to bear, He does this knowingly, and with purpose. Walking about cheerfully and pridefully proclaiming that we can bear our load as it crushes us to death does not glorify God; it attempts to glorify US.

It's as simple as that; by this statement, we glorify ourselves. We proclaim that we are strong enough to bear anything that the Lord gives us. Are we James and John, asking that we be set at the right and left hand of God? Do we know what we are asking by so pridefully proclaiming we can drink from the cup of Christ?

We CANNOT bear it, and Jesus knows it. Only Jesus can bear the suffering sufficient to redeem the world. And while we are called to unite our sufferings to his, it does not mean that we can bear what He did.

Here is what St. Justin Martyr had to say about this topic:

"The greatest grace God can give anyone is to send a trial which cannot be born with one's own powers - and then sustain that person with His own grace so he may endure to the end and know the true source of salvation."

St. Paul himself spoke of boasting of only his weakness, for that is where God is revealed.

Make no mistake...God does indeed give us crosses we cannot carry, and He does this so that His glory will be apparent.


** 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NAB) states:
Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. 6
13 No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

*** Other translations use varyingly terms such as "test" or "temptation". The context of this passage is in reference to SIN, not to the sufferings of life. You can see from the full passage - go read it - that St. Paul is admonishing the people to trust in God in times of temptation. This is a HUGE difference from the common idea that "trial" means "suffering". It does not.

We DO often have trials we cannot fathom, we cannot understand, and we cannot overcome. We DO, however, have the strength to overcome temptations, although often we have to go to God's own strength for we can do nothing on our own.

So while God MAY not allow us to suffer beyond our ability to bear it, our TEMPTATIONS are the point of this teaching.

I will concede that no matter how you look at this, we MUST go to God in times of temptation AND suffering, as in both cases, God's glory is revealed.


Heidi Saxton said...

This theme comes up again and again in "Come Be My Light," the book of Mother Teresa's letters that I'm just now finishing (and blogging about). She bore the weight of the darkness throughout her life, despite the great way God was using her. Again and again, she prayed for herself to decrease, and Jesus to increase.

I'm so sorry to hear about your dear mother. May God hold her (and you) gently next to His Sacred Heart, and give her light enough to take the next step, and then the next. I'm praying for you both.

Adoro te Devote said...

Heidi ~ Thank you for your prayers, however the incident I am referring to was 16 years ago! She's doing wonderfully now. I will edit my post to make this VERY CLEAR!

uncle jim said...

i understand satan has no power over us that God cannot overcome. yet, he does have power over us, until we turn to God.

his temptations, his lies, his imposition of suffering on us, is not more than God can bear, but some of us find it more than we can bear. i certainly have God to lean on and depend on ... but sometimes i still miss the mark. sometimes i am in the throws of addiction - physical, mental/psychological, spiritual - and wanting out is agonizing, yet i cannot find the where with-all to get out.

the deliberate acts of others can intersect with me and cause suffering and hardship. the rebellious acts of a sinner often affects the innocent ... yet God allows it [Feast of the Holy Innocents]. did God will it to happen - or did he fore-know?

satan was given pretty much carte-blanc over job. job overcame through the grace of God, which God knew he would do, but job still had his free-will intact.

i don't know if i'm commenting, or questioning, or rambling ... it is starting to feel like a ramble. i'll ponder and return later.

Melanie B said...

There was a good passage by Tolkien on the subject of crosses that are too heavy to bear posted today on the Wittingshire blog here.

sahmommy said...

I rather like the teaching that God does not give us more than we can bear because it gives hope. Hope that we can make it through difficult times. To me, it's always said with the implication that we can bear all things through Christ. Not to glorify ourselves else we might not even say that God give us these burdens. But _because of God_ we can bear these burdens.

I guess and agreeing and disagreeing with you.

sahmommy said...

Make that: I guess I'm agreeing and disagreeing...

Adrienne said...

I'll have to think on this today - it's too deep for a quick reply.

Adoro said...

1 Cor 10:13 states that you will not be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear, for the Lord is faithful. HOWEVER, that is not what MOST people are quoting when they take this passage beyond scripture, to apply to situations.

God clearly gives us all far more than we can bear. Tempations are a different thing. Tragedies and stress are another. HUGE difference.

So, you're really disagreeing with scripture and with St. Justin Martyr, not me.

Melody said...

Does God send suffering? Or does it just happen; we draw a bad card in the game of life? If He doesn't send it, He certainly allows it. Yet to think along these lines represents God as an abusive parent. There was a good but flawed book out a number of years ago, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", which attempted to address these issues. The author's take was that God is not necessarily omnipotent. Which would make him not God. Which of course I don't believe. Most of me believes that God bears our sufferings with us, and unites them to His sufferings on the cross; that "all things work together for good for them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." However there are times, in the wee hours of the night when I am sleepless, when all that I can find are the questions without the answers.

Adoro te Devote said...

Melody ~ You're right...God does not send suffering..he allows it. Exactly.

And your questions on this that keep you awake at night are a part of God's plan. What you SHOULD read is JP2's encyclical "Salvifici Doloros".

Jesus invites us to offer our sufferings to his; this is a deep part of Catholic theology, and part of God's plan of salvation.

I wrote of SOME of this in this post:

It's more about prayer, but touches on suffering. Last spring I wrote a paper on how suffering is redemptive, a concept that can not be divorced from Mercy, and this last semester I wrote a paper on prayer and suffering.

Suffering is an evil, however, through God's intervention, it becomes a good because it is suffering that causes us to ask the deepest questions. As John Paul II stated, God expects those questions and is ready to answer them. So we MUST address ourselves to Him when faced with such trials.

Those very trials that we CAN'T bear especially, becaue God indeed bears them for us, but we can never understand that unless we are willing to come to the Lord in humility and admit we are nothing but dust, we can't handle our suffering, and so we offer it to Him.

Only God can turn our suffering into joy; only He can redeem us.

We suffer for many reasons, but mainly because we are in a fallen world.

I thank God every day that He came and died on the cross for us. I shudder to think what this world would be like had Jesus not been born.

angelmeg said...

That is the one that confuses so many people: God often gives us more than we can bear alone, it is only when we turn to him that the insurmountable task of getting through our troubles begins to look like something that we can see how to start working out.

With God all things are possible, (I would give the citations but don't have time at this moment) It is only when we trust in God and rely on Him that we can begin to handle those things that are set before us.

When we start to take it all on ourselves then we are asking for trouble.

Anonymous said...

God gives us things we cannot bear, so we can emerge from our own self-reliance and turn to God-reliance.

God's ways are so far above our ways--we can even imagine the good that He can bring from our suffering.

Anonymous said...

This post resonates a great deal with me, because I am currently suffering from problems with anger and paranoia. No matter how rough things get -- and lately they've been very rough -- I keep my eyes on God all the time, especially on Our Crucified Lord. I don't know what I'd do without Jesus, because my husband is not supportive, considering my episodes evidence of self-indulgence and lack of discipline. I am taking medication, but am currently reducing it under my doctor's supervision. With God's grace, I hope to stabilize -- eventually, I may have to increase the dose if things don't get better. Meanwhile, I continue to pray for the grace of self-control. I am a musician, and work with many difficult people (including myself), so I suppose some of this could be chalked up to "artistic temperament". Most of those I work with don't seem to want to help, they are of the "God never gives us more than we can bear" or "whatever doesn't kill you makes you strong" school. Of course, there's the "suck it up, buttercup" mentality, which is also incredibly annoying. I realize that God is allowing this to purge me of my pridefulness and to make sure that all my reliance is on Him, and not on myself. It's hard, though -- although not as hard as being crucified! I pray along with many others that Our Lord can bring some good from what's happening now. The Lord is my strength and my shield; blessed be the Name of the Lord!

adoro said...

Thank you, Anon, for your comment! Your witness of faith is amazing, and it sounds to me you're doing exactly what you should be doing - leaning on God. You can't suffer this alone, but God can suffer it, certainly.

And you know, I would argue that you are "on the cross" right now, with Jesus. Keep offering your suffering to Him - not a bit will be wasted.

You are in my prayers. God bless you!

Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I have a friend who has spent many years working in a hospice setting and in palliative care. He does not believe that "God never gives you more than you can bear." He says he has often seen individuals and families overwhelmed, beyond where they can cope.

Anonymous said...

Not only does Jesus want you to ask Him for help--but also those around you--the communion of saints--I too will pray for you.

Kat(i)e said...

I found this post looking for the reference for 1 Corinthians 10:13 and didn't realise that it only meant temptation till just now. However, in reply to the final comment He 'MAY' not allow us more suffering than we can bear I am reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I agree with what you say about suffering being used that we can rely on His strength, I am learning this is too often, but I do think that He does not allow more than we can take of it... though the verse in question does not, it seems, refer to that idea.

Adoro said...

Katie ~ Thank you for your comment, and I love the scripture you quoted. I actually go to it often.

But it can't be used by itself. Indeed we find rest in the Lord, but we have to Cross, no Crown.

We are all called to EMBRACE the Cross...Christ Himself asks us to do so in the gospels. We cannot find the Lord without suffering, without following in His footsteps. Indeed Jesus helps us to carry our crosses, but that also implies exactly what I'm getting at here; if they weren't more than we can bear, we would have no need of Him!

I firmly believe, both through experience and theologically, that we ARE given MUCH more than we can bear, and the reason is that so we will be able understand our true helplessness...and complete dependence upon God for EVERYTHING.

God bless you.

Kat(i)e said...

Amen! It is in our weakness that He is made strong after all. Seems we are saying basically the same thing... I only think we can bear it BECAUSE of His strength. It is by taking His yolk upon ourselves - i.e. choosing the cross and all that that means - that we are able to find that rest.

God bless you too. Happy New Year!

Adoro said...

I think we are saying the same thing, Katie. God bless you and Happy New Year! :-)