Thursday, July 27, 2006

Unbearable?

Graduate school has been a nightmare for me. I’ve been struggling as a grad student ever since I started about a year ago. Since that time, I’ve switched programs twice, and I still haven’t been able to find my nitch. As an undergrad, things went so smoothly for me. I usually took a seat as one of the ‘smart guys’ in the class. You know, the one who always seem to screw up the curve. But, in grad school, it’s been a completely different story.

I was talking with a fellow church member about how difficult of a time I've been having in school. In addition to some of the glib remarks that church folks are known for (i.e. “I’m praying for you.” or “God is in control”), he tossed one out there that made me bite my bottom lip:

“God never puts more on you than you can bear.”

I'm not calling this guy out in particular, but I believe that whoever came up with this line is completely misguided.

If God never gives us more than we can handle, then how do you explain (otherwise sane) people who go crazy after tragic events? What does it mean when something so horrible happens in our lives that we just can’t seem to cope? Is it really just a matter of us ‘trying’ a little harder to overcome these problems? If we can bear our problems, then what good is God to us?

Though I can’t seem to fit my ideas into the Word, I think that God allows us to be weighed down by the problems of the world. I know, from personal experience that we can get broken by the circumstances of life that we thought that we were supposed to control. But, if God doesn’t allow burdens to weigh us down, then how can we “Cast all of our cares upon Him?” I think that the only way for us to completely lean on God is for something to happen to us that only He can deliver us from. Besides that, I think that God finds it a lot easier to work in the lives of people who have been broken up than with people who think that they are in control.

Your thoughts?

- ACL

18 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

rhynoman said...

"God never puts more on you than you can bear.' I'm not calling this guy out in particular, but I believe that whoever came up with this line is a complete moron."

Great observation Andre. This is another example of a commonly used term that is found NOWHERE in the Bible. The closest scripture that I can find is in I Corinthians 10:12-14:

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be TEMPTED above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."

No where in this passage does it say that God is responsible for difficulty in our lives. And he's certainly not responsible for the temptations that we face, is He? (see James 1:13)

I think that we have to remember that God is faithful in all things, even if we don't always seek Him. I don't think that He would throw us out to the wolves to fend for ourselves.

In John 10, Jesus tells us how the thief comes to "steal, kill & destroy", but that He comes to "give life more abundantly". If anybody will bear our burdens, it's Him!

Good post.

Andre said...

After thinking about it, I was off-base by calling the person (whomever they are) a "complete moron". But, I will still hold true to my idea that too many people subscribe to ideas and sayings that are not Biblical.

I'm glad that you used that particular passage of scripture to help prove my point. If you notice, that passage clearly tells us that God will not allow us to be TEMPTED more than we are able to bear. It says nothing about handling burdens and hardships.

As Paul reminds us in II Corithians 12, only strength that comes FROM GOD will be enough to sustain us.

Thanks for your comments.

ajbendaña said...

This might make me seem like the moron, but I belive it.

"When your tasks seem a little heavy and overwhelming remember to do one thing at a time and quietly, and leave the rest becuase the rest is not your job. What you cannot get through you must hand back to God and He/She will work it out for you."

Now by this quote i dont think he mean that you just stop doing your school work and God will magicaly do your work. I interpret it as the person doing what they can and not overwhelming themselves by trying to do to much all at once. God then will work in mysterious ways by example:(sending a classmate to you who wants to review and ends up helping you figure out or do somthing you were struggling with.) etc.

Andre said...

Hey Aldo. What's up witcha?

For one, this post wasn't really about my struggles in grad school. Though one of my greatest fears is failure, I'm not really focused on me right now. When you think about all the REAL problems in the world (death, sickness, poverty, etc.), my "problems" are virtually non-existent.

At any rate, I'm not going to challenge what you or anybody else believes (hence, the whole idea of a belief). But, I think that point of this post was to identify HOW MUCH we need God in our lives. To say 'God never puts more on you than YOU can bear' implies (to me) that we take on the problems of the world alone.

Instead, we should be looking for God's grace, wisdom, and instruction first AND THEN taking action.

Anonymous said...

After reading your post, I guess I have to ask: Are we really sure that God is in control of everything? I am not convinced, because I think to hold that theological view is scary for the implications it holds at each end of the pain/suffering spectrum.

You said: "I think that God allows us to be weighed down by the problems of the world."

I say: I don't think God allows anything. I simply don't view God working in my life this way. It gives us an odd sense of comfort to think that God allows pain for some reason (whatever that might be); when, in reality, I don't think that he has nothing to do with it. It's all the devil's doing. Him allowing pain/suffering implies so many things that contradict the loving nature of God.

You said: "I think that God finds it a lot easier to work in the lives of people who have been broken up than with people who think that they are in control.

I say: I agree here. I think that our lives must be broken up and torn down everyday. We must respond to the events of pain in our lives and ask God, "What would you want me to learn, change or do as a result of this painful situation."

But overall, good post.

Andre said...

@ anonymous: So, if I'm reading your comments correctly, are you saying that God being in control has scary implications?

For me, I think it's scarier to imagine that something has happened that is so bad that even He can't handle it. Are you implying that -- even when the Bible reminds us -- that "His eye on the sparrow", that He's only a spectator? If anything's scary, it has to be your perception of God. No offense...

But since you raised the point, allow me to ask you another question: If God is NOT in control (as you say), then how can you explain your statement about God working with broken people? How can that statement have any real merit?

I think it's misguided (in a pretty scary way) to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't.

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

OK.

You said: "I think it's misguided (in a pretty scary way) to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't."

I never said he can't. And I believe he has intervened. I just don't believe that is how he "normally" chooses to operate.

Andre said...

@ anonymous: Perhaps I misunderstood what it was you were trying to say. If I'm not mistaken, you said that you weren't convinced that God was in control; and that such a thought has scary "implications" (these are YOUR words).

I don't argue with the idea that God doesn't normally choose to intervene. That's why WE'RE here. We're supposed to be physical extensions of God (so to speak). God will not come down to Earth and physically restore New Orleans, make someone's dead child come back to life, or take care of the impoverished.

I think that's why us trying to comfort people by using glib and preachy cliches is freakishly strange. For us to nonchalantly say stuff like that -- with the full expectation that the 'victims' circumstance won't change -- causes us to lose credibility. I can't go to a person who lost their child to violence and say "God won't put more on you than you can bear", and not expect that person to cuss me out.

I think that's why building solid relationships is so critical to living out the sprirt of God's Word. I mean, it's easy for us to pat somebody else on the back and say "Everything's gonna be alright" and then walk away. But, I think that we are also called to take someone else's pain and MAKE IT OUR OWN. Take note that in both instances, the end result is likely the same. The difference is in the heart to heart interation that we make with others out of sincerity and not out of sympathy. I think that such contact is our way of displaying Christ's presence in us.

Anonymous said...

Andre...

I stand by what I said earlier that I believe thinking that God is in control, that he intervenes in our lives to control our circumstances is dangerous.I simply don't believe the he sends things our way to teach us things. It seems myopic and narrow-minded to see life this way.

I believe that things happen to us solely for the purpose of us gaining insight on how we are to respond to those circumstances. Our responses help us to shape ourselves to conform to God’s character.

He works through me and, together, we operate in the world. I’m not expecting God to do anything for me. Instead, I trust that He will give ME the strenght to do it myself.

Hope this makes sense...

Andre said...

I understand where you're coming from. You make some sense. But, I think you proved my point when you said:

"...thinking that God is in control, that he intervenes in our lives to control our circumstances..."

My whole thing, I really don't view those two things as being equal. While I believe that God IS in control, I don't think that He is some puppetmaster (though He DOES have the power to be...)

Perhaps the best way to put it is by saying that God is in control (simply because He's God), but that He is NOT controlling...

KC said...

This is a pretty good exchange. You should go to Theology Online and put this topic on the Battle Royale.

g said...

how can one know if God has or has not interveined, unless you could foresee the future ,who could tell how bad things could hav been without it.Just because things are not perfect or better or hard does not mean that God did not step in from it being a worse scenario.our free will and choices can make things harder than we can bare ,unless we wave those we cannot think god brings on ,OR relieves hardships that we can bare or not.

greeny :)

Andre said...

@ KC: I've visited this site quite a few times. I think it would be an interesting place to post this discussion. That is, if it hasn't already been done. I'll look into that...

@ Greeny: I think you're right on with your assessment. I think that one of the biggest problems that people have with Christians is that we don't always seem genuine with God, ourselves, and/or others.

Today, I went to a funeral at my church. A woman at our church lost her husband. This was only a link to the series of tragic things that have happened to her (she lost her son, mother, and husband in less than one year's time). I can't IMAGINE how tough it's been on her. At the funeral, I actually heard people try to comfort this poor woman with their shallow platitudes and their soundbite theology. I heard more meaningless cliches and cute quotes used than I cared to hear. I wanted to leave the sanctuary, sit in my car, and yell out loud.

Truth be told, I remember my own struggle for words when I saw her. To be honest, those cute little Chicken Soup for the Soul comments almost snuck their way out of my mouth, too. But, I managed to hold them off and to simply tell her, "I can't even imagine what you're going through. All I can say is that I love you and support you." She hugged me and whispered "Thank you. You've done more than you realize..." and walked off.

This lady was no idiot. She was fully aware that there were no words that I could that would make her feel better at the time. But, I think that it gave her encouragement to know that people where there. Sometimes, it's better to leave the cute quotes and sayings at the door.

joanne said...

@ anonymous: I don't think that you seem to understanding the TRUE nature of God. Please allow me to show you what you're missing (in Christian love, of course!)

God always has the uncanny knack of getting us to understand that we need to trust Him in the midst of our cirucmstances, and throughout every aspect of our life. I am reminded of Romans 8, which tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and I'm really beginning to believe that I am included in the nothing part. Seems that God has to keep breaking us until we stop trying to pick up the pieces and let Him mold us. After all, He is the potter.

Andre said...

Nicely said, J...

saved_sinner said...

I think it's misguided (in a pretty scary way) to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't.

Nice point, Andre. Allow to add a little to it. I heard a story once. It goes something like this:

In high school, there was a certain teacher who didn't believe in God. one day in class, she ridiculed any student who was so naive as to believe in an eternal creator.

Upset and offended by her remarks, a young girl, we'll call her 'Susie', stood up to let her opposing view be heard.

The teacher, now excited that a student had taken the bait, openly challenged the girl to prove her God existed. The teacher said, "If your God truly exists, pray to Him, asking Him to supernaturally move this book from my desk to yours!"

The girl bowed her head, praying for wisdom. Finally, she loudly prayed, "Father, I pray that you would move this book from the teacher's desk to mine. In Jesus' name, amen."

With that, she purposefully walked to the teacher's desk, picked up the book, carried it across the room and gently placed it on her own desk.

The teacher exclaimed, "Ha! I knew your God couldn't do it!"

Susie replied, "What do you mean? God answered my prayer. He moved the book, just as I requested... only He used ME to do it."

I think sometimes, we expect God to do things that he has appointed, expected, & enabled us to do.

Could it be that God's intervention is conditioned on the fact that the people He may have in mind as the vehicle for that intervention are simply not listening to, or obeying His voice?

That's not God's fault, is it?

Andre said...

@ saved_sinner: Great story Rob. That ties in perfectly to my argument that we need to spend less time allowing God to work and more time allowing God to work THROUGH US!

Thanks for your insight, as always...

Anonymous said...

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