There’s a story pop culture likes to tell us. It says, you got this. If you’ll dig down a little deeper, you can drum up the grit to push through. If you just work harder and just get braver, you can do that hard thing.
Yeah, you got this, the story goes.
Scripture shows us a different story. God’s Word says apart from Jesus, not only do we not have this, we have nothing. “…for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Will God give us too much to handle? Biblical examples of multiple faith giants show God does allow circumstances in our lives that are too much for us to handle.
People may mean well when they cheer you got this. But it’s not rooted in Biblical truth.
We weren’t created for independence or self-sufficiency. God created us for total dependency on Him in all things. Suffering reveals where we’ve nurtured the idol of self-sufficiency.
There’s not enough moxie in the heartiest to handle excruciating losses like the death of a child or spouse or parent. Grit won’t carry you through chronic illness or unwanted divorce. You can’t just try harder when a business fails or depression sets in.
Why does God allow circumstances that are too much for us?
Let’s look at seven principles from seven examples in scripture where people encountered circumstances too hard to handle.
7 principles and 7 examples in the Bible of circumstances too much to handle
Moses encountered several situations that were too much to handle. In fact, he got in trouble trying to manhandle an issue too big for him, instead of trusting it to God. Moses killed an Egyptian mistreating a fellow Hebrew and then had to run for his life, hiding on the backside of the desert for 40 years.
When God called Moses to lead Israel out of slavery, Moses argued he couldn’t do it. He doubted the Israelites would obey him, contended his speech issues disqualified him and finally begged God: “Please, Lord, send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13)
Moses was again stretched beyond his ability during the wilderness wandering. The Hebrews were serial complainers, complaining about water, the leadership, not having meat and only having manna to eat. Moses lamented to God: “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” (Nu 11:14-15)
God provided Aaron to help Moses stand against Pharaoh and later provided 70 elders to help him lead the Hebrews.
Principle: We need not wait until we’re absolutely tapped out to ask God for help because God has the help we need all along.
Gideon first appears in scripture hiding in a winepress. The angel of the Lord appeared, calling him “mighty man of valor” and instructing him to free Israel from its Midianite oppressors. The Midianites were massive in number and ruthless in tactic.
Gideon immediately replied this task was too hard for him. “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
God’s response? “I will be with you.” (Judges 6:16)
Twice, God whittled down Gideon’s fighting force – from 32,000 men to 300. This small force led by Gideon, a farmer, would face off against an army too numerous to count.
It was an impossible task too big for Gideon to handle.
But God never intended for Gideon to handle it. God would fight for the Hebrews. When Gideon and his men stood against their enemies, they had a torch in one hand and trumpet in the other. They weren’t even holding their swords! God caused the enemy forces to turn on each other and when the remaining remnant fled, Gideon and his men captured and killed them.
Principle: God may put us in circumstances too hard for us to handle because if we could handle it, we’d be tempted to steal God’s glory. (Judges 7:2)
David, the valiant warrior and faithful king, faced circumstances that were too much for him. “I am poured out like water…my heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:14)
David could have penned these words in one of many overwhelming situations. He was completely unmatched as he went one-on-one against Goliath, the 10-foot giant and seasoned warrior who terrified every soldier in Saul’s army.
He ran for his life from Saul for years, always trying to keep one step ahead of Saul’s army and any potential betrayers. Later, he was forced to run from his own son as Absalom tried to overthrow the kingdom.
David counted on God alone to deliver him in each situation and when God brought peace from every enemy, David wrote:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Sam. 22:17-20)
Principle: God may allow circumstances too hard for us to handle because only when we need rescued can we find God our Rescuer.
This is a story that strengthened me in the overwhelm of grief and sudden solo-parenting of my seven children. King Jehoshaphat learned a vast army was mounting an unprovoked attack against Judah. He went to the temple to plead for God’s help: “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)
Ever been there? Powerless to fix your situation and clueless how to move forward?
God told Jehoshaphat not to be afraid or discouraged. “For the battle is not yours, but God’s…Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 20:15-17)
The next morning, God set an ambush and when Jehoshaphat’s army crested the hill, they saw a battlefield littered only with dead bodies. Not one enemy escaped. And to top it off, there was so much plunder it took three days to cart it to Jerusalem.
Principle: God may allow us to face circumstances too hard to handle so we fix our focus on Him.
The prophet Elijah was a bold prophet in Israel when King Ahab, the most wicked king ever to sit on Israel’s throne, ruled. Ahab was a murderous, power-hungry king who married his equal—Jezebel, the daughter of a pagan priest-king of Baal. Together, Ahab and Jezebel slaughtered as many of God’s prophets as they could and led Israel into flagrant idol worship.
Elijah was no featherweight. He faced down Ahab and prophesied three years of famine because of Ahab’s evil, he depended on God to provide for him while in hiding, he prayed and raised a widow’s son back to life and then he powerfully challenged eight hundred prophets of Baal on the summit of Mount Carmel to prove God was the only true God.
But when Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, it was too much. Elijah fled to the wilderness and there, prayed for his death. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life.” (1 King 19:4, NIV) Elijah, the bold, brash man full of God’s power, had come to a place where circumstances were too much to handle.
God never shook his head disappointingly at Elijah or rebuked him for reaching a place of utter dependence. How did God respond? He sent his presence to be with him.
Principle: God may allow circumstances too hard for us to handle so we stop striving, become still and know that He is God.
Hagar was Sarah’s slave and had a son Ishmael with Abraham. A few years after Isaac was born, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. They wandered in the desert until their skin of water ran out. In a heartbreaking scene, Hagar left Ishmael under one bush and then sat down a bowshot away because she couldn’t bear to watch her son die and perhaps too, couldn’t bear to hear him cry.
Broken, rejected and absolutely hopeless, Hagar was unable to fix this for herself or her son.
Hagar may have been rejected by those she should have been able to count on, but she was never abandoned by God.
God assured her through an angel that He saw their pain. He reminded her of His promise to make Ishmael into a great nation and then met their need. God opened Hagar’s eyes and there in front of her, was a well of water.
Principle: God may allow circumstances too hard for us to handle so we realize He will never abandon us or forsake us.
As an apostle spreading the gospel among Hebrews and Roman gentiles, Paul suffered hardship after hardship that stretched him far past his human capacity to handle. Here’s his summary in Second Corinthians:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:24-28)
On one missionary journey, Paul said he suffered “far beyond [his] ability to endure” and thought he would die. (2 Cor. 1:9) But this suffering was “the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally…”
Paul also dealt with a thorn in his flesh and begged God three times to remove it. God’s answer was to leave the thorn and provide His sustaining grace. Paul learned to boast not in his strength, but in his weakness, because that’s when the power of Christ rested on him. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)
Principle: God allows circumstances too hard for us to handle so that in our utter weakness, we experience God’s power.
Let’s set aside the story that we got this and rest instead in complete dependence on God. This side of heaven, God will allow us to go through circumstances too hard to handle, but we can count on God to carry us, fight for us and provide for us in it.