When life brings too much to bear

sadnessI’ve been in a daze. Stricken to the core. I haven’t been able to think of anything except my friends and former teammates in Eastern Europe. They lost their teenage son last week. These dear ones are not strangers to difficulties. They’ve had to carry burden upon burden, for years now. All of it pales in comparison to this blow. They have more heartache than it’s humanly possible to bear.

Didn’t God promise not to give us more than we can handle? You may have felt you’ve carried a load that’s above and beyond. In some of my blog reading in the last month or so, I remember someone refuting that promise. (If I remembered who it was, I would give them credit for the idea.) It drove me to I Cor. 10:13 to read the verse for myself:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Paul didn’t write about suffering. This promise is about temptation.  It’s up to us whether we flirt with or turn from temptation. Escape is always possible. But we can’t flee from suffering. When faced with pain, heartache, and grief, the Bible doesn’t say we can bear it. It invites us to Someone who can. burden_closeup

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Perhaps people have tried to cheer you up, suggesting your trial proves God has confidence that you can handle it. He trusts you. It’s a nice thought. However, when faced with tragedy, the weight crushes our puny shoulders.  Rather than God trusting us, we trust him enough to let him carry it. He’s strong enough.

Isn’t this the secret to the Christian life? We’re not able but He is. It’s a paradox. We’re commanded to follow and then told it’s impossible. We can’t obey fully until we realize our utter dependence and let him take over. He freely gives us himself. His strength.  His grace. That’s what enables us to keep going.

But it doesn’t mean that the eternal question is ever answered satisfactorily: Why? Why me? Why this?

Edith Schaeffer in her book Affliction writes: “Sometimes we can know the answer; more often we cannot. What we can know is that God is with us, sustaining and strengthening us to bear what must be borne.”

We’ll likely never know why. Not this side of eternity. Now we see in a mirror dimly, but someday it’ll be face to face.

grief-pic-2My friends write that, in these first raw days, they feel at peace. God’s comfort and grace are palpable. They have experienced God’s faithfulness as they cling to him. Along with hundreds of others all over the world, I’ve prayed for them constantly since I heard. They claim God has upheld them in response to those prayers.

When trials come – and they will – we can rely on Christ to be our strength.  Another former teammate posted these wise words to the family’s other son: “You don’t have to be strong. Jesus lives in you and He is strong enough for this moment and the next and the next.”

That same only-God-can-give-strength enabled Horatio Spafford to pen lyrics to a cherished hymn after all four of his daughters died when their ship sunk. “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my soul.”

No, it’s not humanly possible.

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