"God doesn't give us more than we can handle" and other trite phrases redeemed.



I've been running into phrases left and right lately, found in metaphorical fists of friends who cling tightly to them. My friends hope the phrases, the mantras, the quotes will unlock a reality they're not yet tasting, seeing, or feeling. They say them to me in passing almost with the presumed understanding I know what they mean.
And I do know what they mean. I just don't believe them.
These precious souls speak these phrases over themselves to summon peace, or strength, or okay-ness. Some of the words are completely void of religion but since I run in communities of faith, many have faith entwined.

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle."

"Count your blessings."

"Others have it worse."

    We parade our silver linings, don't we? We produce herculean efforts to prove we're okay, minimizing our Cerberus to a pocket phrase.

While I know these phrases in and of themselves are just mere sentences taken out of context, I think about where they first formed. I wonder, 'if these words were said in different settings, maybe they wouldn't harm us as much as they do?'

Perhaps they can be redeemed?

What if the phrase "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" needed to have the WE underlined but we lost those instructions along the way? Those eight words weren't meant to bounce off a reflection in a mirror, but rather thought with a sigh of relief as we watch others shoulder our grief alongside us.

Maybe counting our blessings was meant to be done in the context of a table of chairs filled with bodies; surrounded by those who have seen us in grief, who know what our face looks like when it turns red with tears, and who have spoken His promises over us when truth felt foreign in our mouths and minds.

Maybe when we "count our blessings," they weren't meant to be the car or the house or that almighty health, but familiar eyes staring back at us knowingly.

Can you imagine believing: "We can face this and we won't be alone doing so. Tomorrow will come but so will my neighbor. We'll face the dark and we'll welcome the dawn. We still have good things to see in this land and though we ache and grieve now, we'll laugh together soon. "

How do you quantify knowing such a thing deep down in your bones? What if this were true?

And When we think others have it worse and it's true. (Most of the time they do.) Maybe that thought wasn't meant to be used to toughen our resolve, nor to silence our pain but to give pause and attention to those drowning in a heavy we haven't yet tasted. Maybe we could be so wise to lose our trite words and measuring sticks and meet a grieving friend with equal tears and lingering presence?

If our pain must always be valued against another's, when can it be held by them? I'm weary of being quantified, of feeling the urge to make it more or less than it is. Perhaps measureless grieving is the only way to healing?

If we have lived even a few adult years on this dusty earth, and if we're awake, we know. God will give us more than we can handle. Sometimes, we have it the worst. Sometimes the grief makes speaking-let alone counting-impossible. Sometimes we don't have a measuring stick that goes that far.

The neighbors grief is overwhelming. Suffocating. Gutting. That's why we're here. Someday grief will find us too. And it's effects will be the same. That's why they're here. If we're there to speak truth, then grief doesn't get the final words.

Knowing suffering is coming isn't meant to make us afraid, but to make us bold. "Take heart!" our Judeo-Christian scriptures say! Soon enough, Lord let it be so, we'll overcome all this just like our Messiah. We'll look at one another-past the heavy seasons with the sounds of grief fading-and we'll be able to count again.

But this time, counting will be measureless.

Blessing upon blessing upon blessing upon blessing.

And we'll know something we don't know yet. Blessings measureless in both directions. Grief and joy can exist in the same room here, in the same body, in the same face. But our grief has an end. Grief might still know our name, but we will not have to always know hers.

Dark and dawn and dark and dawn will come. Until forever day. And the reminding of that forever day is our work to do.

It's scary though isn't it? The problem with this idea-this shouldering another's grief so willingly- is that we can't help but quantify.

"I have enough problems of my own, I don't need another's. it sounds SO good on paper. But goodness, we feel the weight on our own souls the minute we stop reading. If we take the weight of another, whos to say we won't be drowned?"

And honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in a neighbors grief. But this loving before it is deserved IS Christian hospitality. My Jesus drowned, to breath new life into me. And this kind of loving is less of a duty and more of invitation. It's an act of faith-and a chance to see if Jesus is who he says he is. By showing up this way I get to find out: If I get hurt, will he heal me? If she rejects me, will he still welcome me? If they lie about me, will I have to be defined by their words? If I lose my way, will he bring someone to show me it?

Thus far, the answer for me has been yes. and yes. and yes. and yes.

And so.

I wake up, with the grief, with the seasonal depression, with my own forum of voices reminding me of lies (I'll combat today and tomorrow until lies will be silenced forevermore) and I do what I've learned is the most meaningful use of my time.

I look past myself and into the face of my neighbor.

And if I'm faithful and true and kind, I might be so honored as to hear of their grief too. A sacred invitation and share in their joys when dawn comes.

We show up in a broken world that has left its mark on everything and we're given one job. We walk each other home. We remind each other of what home looks like as we often forget. We speak in whispers and songs and stories so all those who always wanted to sing along with us will join us and it sometimes feels too much. Until we remember we're not shouldering the heaviest. The heaviest has already been shouldered. The wounds have found their healer. Our story has it's glorious new beginning.

And so when a friend says "God doesn't give us more than we can handle!!!" I no longer correct her. I no longer launch into my monologue on the hurtfulness of the phrase.... I just try to see if she's willing to let me be part of the 'we.'

Because she's right. God doesn't give us more than we can handle because he never has given us anything to handle alone.

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