I’ve heard the blank filled in with things such as:
I could never handle...
the death of a spouse or child
a special needs child
a terminal illness
The list could go on and on. I even have my own list to fill in the blank of things I know I could never handle.
I usually hear this statement made after hearing of someone else suffering that very thing. For in instance, a conversation surrounds the topic of someone who just lost a child. Someone pipes in that they could never handle losing a child.
I totally understand that response. But when I hear it, I think, “So, God allowed that person to lose their child because he knew they could handle it? Likewise, the sufferings God allows in my life are because I can handle them when few others could?” That kind of talk and thinking will cause you and others to falter in faith.
Let us pause and consider a more helpful (and truthful!) response.
The truth is that all of us are incapable of handling suffering, especially when it is deep or prolonged. Hardship and suffering don’t come to those who can handle it. This truth is found all throughout Scripture but let me highlight one passage that has been pressed on my heart:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.
Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.
On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
So that we will rely on Him who is capable. He can raise the dead! He is capable! And we - we are incapable without Him.
We become incapable if we forget our hope. The hope that He will deliver us, if not in this life then in eternal life to
come. (2 Cor. 1:8-11)
We become incapable if we fix our eyes on what is seen and temporary rather than what is unseen and eternal.
(2 Cor. 4:16-18).
We become incapable if we rely only on our own power (2 Cor. 4:7-12; 12:9-10 and Phil. 4:12-13).
Yes, I could never handle ___. But neither can the person who is currently suffering that very thing.
I am not a theologian but from what I read in the Scriptures, to say, “I could never handle ___,” is an incomplete sentence, an incomplete truth.
I know we as Christians don’t intend harm when saying such statements. But half truth clichés are not encouraging. As Christians, let us rewrite that common phrase by reminding ourselves and our hearers of our true source of strength and
hope when faced with a crisis.