Connections 07.24.2022: What God Gives

Luke 11:1-13

They say, “God only gives you what you can handle.”

“They” like to say this when people around them are struggling, often bundling it with other unhelpful sayings like, “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m not sure who “they” are, but one of the ways I think I am maturing in my faith is that I no longer assume “they” know what “they” are talking about.

In Luke 11, Jesus is talking to his disciples about prayer. He knows what he’s talking about. He has a unique relationship with God. He teaches his followers how to speak to God as a loving and beloved parent, who is hallowed in heaven even as the kingdom is coming on earth. He teaches them to pray for daily sustenance, for forgiveness, and for guidance in staying in right ways. Then he launches into a lesson about persistence in prayer, and finally he reassures them that God doesn’t give them anything they can’t handle.

Wait.

I don’t think Jesus means it the way “they” mean it.

Jesus doesn’t say hard things don’t happen, and he doesn’t say we can’t learn to handle the hard things that happen to us. He says, God doesn’t give hard things. If a child asks for a fish or an egg, a loving parent would never make the child handle a snake or a scorpion. Maybe learning to handle snakes and scorpions is good training for a future career in reptile studies, but do we really believe God gives us snakes and scorpions so that we can learn to handle them?

Do we really believe God gives us hard, hurtful, dangerous, difficult experiences as “good training” in handling hard things?

If so, what does it say about us if we can’t handle it? Plenty of people turn to painful, pain-filled solutions to difficulties that are simply too hard to handle. It seems to me that if we believe “God only gives us what we can handle,” then if we can’t handle it, on top of being overwhelmed by our struggles, we must conclude that either we have failed God or God has failed us. Who could ever “handle” that?

We live in a world where snakes and scorpions happen. Hard, hurtful, dangerous, difficult things happen. But God, our loving parent, gives us fish, and eggs, and daily bread. God, our loving parent, forgives us and shows us how to forgive—even how to forgive our own failures. God, our loving parent, answers when we knock, and when we struggle to handle the snakes and scorpions of our lives, God, our loving parent, opens the door with amazing grace.

Discussion

  • What are some of the “they say” sayings about God that you have come to question, or even to reject? Do these sayings ever have a shade of truth to them?
  • When have you experienced something that felt too hard to handle? Who did you turn to? How did you pray? Did you feel that you needed to live up to an expectation to “handle” that situation?
  • Does it make a difference to think that we can learn from the hard things that happen to us, compared to thinking that God “gives” (or allows) hard things to happen to us so that we can learn?
  • What does all this have to do with prayer? Jesus’ relationship with God was apparent from his teachings. How does our prayer express our relationship with God? Think about the reasons and ways that you pray: the language you use, the posture you take, the time you spend. What do these say about your relationship with God? Would it change your prayer life if you “ask, seek, and knock” as if God were a loving parent who is ready to nourish you with good things?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.

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