On Facebook, I read about some friends who had struggled for years with infertility issues, then just before Christmas, they announced they were expecting. This week they lost the baby. The family of a boy on Alan’s football team lost their home and everything in it just last week. Another friend of mine is dealing with her husband’s second cancer diagnosis and her mother’s most recent one. I’m sure you know people in similar situations — good people for whom the roof has seemed to have fallen in.
Or maybe you are one.
Often, when things like these hit, very sincere people will hold our hands, or maybe lay a hand on our shoulders, and say, “God never gives you more than you can bear.” They mean to comfort, they mean to encourage us that we’ll make it through. I deeply respect that.
But they’re wrong.
Our world is broken. Because of the curse of sin there is evil and injustice and heartbreak. And no one is more heartbroken than God Himself. He sent Jesus to erase the reality of sin and its effects on the people He loves and the world He made. We live in the in-between time, a time between the making of the promise, of setting the plan in motion and its final fulfillment. Terrible things still happen. Hard times still come.
We were never meant to endure hard times alone.
Jesus said in John 15:5 “Without Me you can do nothing.” Yet, we get the idea that we have to hold up, and carry on no matter what happens. Alone. As if to prove ourselves. That’s wrongheaded. In reality, God ONLY allows more than we can bear because He never intended for us to bear it. He meant for it to drive us to Him. Jesus means for us to live a life of dependence.
Paul deals with this in 2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus says, “Paul, it’s not about removing you from the situation. I want you to depend on Me through it.” Somehow in our minds, we rearrange, “My grace is sufficient” to “get through it the best way you can.” But that’s not what Jesus means at all.
The Greek word for “made perfect” comes from the same root word Jesus used when He proclaimed from the cross, “It is finished.” It means His strength will accomplish what is necessary. It will carry us through completely.
Great. That sounds great in theory. How does it work in real life? How do we get from carrying these heavy burdens alone to dependence on Christ’s strength?
First of all, we have to be honest. Stop saying, “I can handle this.” Stop saying, “We’ll get through somehow.”
Second, pour it all out before God. All of it. All of the pent-up ugly emotion. The fear. The sadness. The loss. The confusion. The frustration. If you’re a journaler, now’s the time.
Third, relinquish it. It’s harder than it sounds because it’s not a power of positive thinking kind of thing. This is an admission that you’re at the end of yourself. That’s totally against our nature, but it’s the same kind of surrender that brought us to Christ in the first place.
Surrender gives God the opportunity to work in our situation. And in us.
I would never choose pain, or suffering, or tragedy. I doubt anyone would. But those are the times my faith strengthens in ways it never would otherwise. Those are the times when intimacy with God moves from the abstract to the experiential. Those are the times when His presence is real, almost tangible. Those are the times when I begin to understand the meaning of redemption.
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