This morning I am thankful to be living in the calm that comes after the storm. Because October was a very stormy month. Not the kind that brings needed rain, the kind that brings relentless turmoil.
In early October we tore up our patio for an outdoor renovation project.
And then two days later my 14-year-old son severely broke his leg in a soccer collision.
He was hospitalized for 2 days, missed two weeks of school, and was casted up to his hip in a non-weight bearing cast. He’ll be in a walking cast for another 4 weeks once the monster cast comes off, so we’ll be halfway through December before he can take a regular shower.
Ten days after Jordan’s injury, one of my closest friend’s had a single mastectomy. Holly and I met in a peer counseling class our senior year of high school and have called each other BFF for the last twenty-five years. As teenagers, she shared openly with me about her faith and prayed with me the night I invited Jesus to become my Savior when we were seventeen.
We’ve shared every milestone of our lives together since high school graduation including the most recent, her diagnosis of breast cancer this past summer.
For much of our twenty-five years of friendship we have lived in different states or cities, but in recent years we have rejoiced in living just 20 minutes apart. Holly is a single mom of an amazing daughter with special needs who I absolutely adore. They are not just our friends, they are our family. So I stayed with them for several days following Holly’s surgery to help take care of her and Annie, went back and forth from my house to check on Jordan, and took everyone to doctor appointments. My in-laws were thankfully able to stay at our house, so it all worked. But it was exhausting. I honestly have not been that tired since my boys were newborns.
During this time I also had to accept that I just did not have the energy to think about the construction project outside or the layer of dust thickening inside. What mattered most was my loved ones being well and I actually found some peace and strength in making the decision that for a season I was not going to ration my energy anywhere else. I decided that I’d just be satisfied with the finished project and be okay with any resulting imperfection.
At the end of one particularly challenging day, my dear friend Kevin said to me, “You know Wendy, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but the world sure does.” Exactly.
The world gives us more than we can handle all. the. time. And when we throw around the phrase “God doesn’t give you more that you can handle” in an attempt to reassure people who are buried under the weight of their burdens, it offers very little comfort. Especially when we use this sentiment in an attempt to neatly wrap up a conversation about problems that are relentless, unjust, or seemingly un-fixable and unanswerable.
It turns out that phrase doesn’t even actually exist in scripture. I google-ed it. It’s a quote from Mother Theresa. As much as I admire Mother Theresa, it’s bad theology when we try to apply that sentiment to our problems and others.
Scripture says that God won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and that He’ll provide a way out when we are tempted to choose sin over obedience (1 Corinthians 10: 13). But we are never promised or assured that our lives will be spared burdens. Burdens that we often didn’t create or deserve. Burdens that threaten to consume us. In fact scripture teaches over and over that in this world, everyone will encounter hardship and suffering. It is something that we all share in as part of the human experience.