Pastor Tony Evans has said that the phrase “God never gives us more than we can handle,” which is often cited in times of struggle and loss, can be problematic for Christians.
“Maybe you’ve heard the phrase that God never gives us more than we can handle. There’s a problem with that phrase. If it were true, that would mean we would never face anything that we couldn’t solve in our own strength,” Evans, who’s senior pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
“If so, why would we ever need God for anything?” he asked.
In a number of other tweets this past week he also touched on the need for people to rely on God.
“When you learn how to locate God in what appears to be His absence, you will learn to trust Him along the dark pathways life often offers,” he posted.
In another message he shared: “When you think about grace, think about its wings — its ability to lift us up and take us beyond what our experience is saying we have to live under and be controlled by.”
Evans’ niece, Wynter Pitts, who was a well-known Christian author, speaker and founder of For Girls Like You magazine, died unexpectedly last week.
The pastor said in an Instagram video that he doesn’t understand Pitts’ death, and that he has questions for God. He said that her death is a “big blow,” and called on the whole family to “grab hold of God together.”
In a YouTube video released last week by Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship church, Evans and his family members further discussed the topics of faith and loss, and dealing with difficult moments in life that don’t make sense.
Other notable Christian teachers, such as reformed theologian John Piper, have also said there are different meanings to unpack in the phrase “God will never give us more than what we can handle.”
In a desiringGod.org radio episode in 2015, Piper said that all-in-all, the phrase is biblically correct, if it means that “God will never give his people trials in which He will not sustain them and bring them through to everlasting glory.”
Piper said that two very important words in the phrase are “we” and “handle.”
For “we,” he said it’s important to define whether it refers to people’s independent abilities of handling troubling times, or if it assumes that divine assistance has been received.
As for “handle,” he said it’s important to define whether it’s trying to say that people never collapse under difficulties.
“Does it mean you never fail in any task? Does it mean you never mess up? Does it mean you never fail to get a B+ on every one of life’s tests? Or does ‘handle’ mean you never fail so that you never recover or repent or restore reconciliation and that you are finally lost because you failed? Which does ‘handle’ mean?” Piper positioned.
When examining biblical texts that have inspired the phrase, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13 and 2 Corinthians 9:8, Piper noted that God does not promise that people will have a “perfect reliance on His omnipotent grace.”
“I think what is promised is ultimately this: He will never let us so stumble or so fail that we don’t recover and repent and are restored. In other words, He will never let us sin our way into apostasy and damnation. He will enable us to bear the fruits of genuine faith and perseverance to the end,” Piper said at the time.