Thursday, April 24, 2014

Never more

"God will never give you more than you can bear". I've heard this before and I've wanted to write about it and haven't, until now.

There is a widely held view that God, the Universe, the Great Giver of Life, never gives us more than we can bear but that is so clearly not true.

Some years ago, there was a story in the news in the MD/VA/DC metro area, about a professional woman who, apparently overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for a son with a life long developmental challenge, did harm to both her son and herself. Neither of them survived. This was, I think, her goal. Obviously it was her goal. She wouldn't have done it otherwise. That's not the kind of thing that happens by accident.

Throughout the Great Recession of 2008 and in the post-recessionary period, we've seen stories nationwide, of fathers and sometimes mothers, doing terrible things to their entire families generally because they were carrying far, far more than they could bear and they had lost hope.

I understand why folk will say "God never gives us more than we can bear". I understand it completely but I simply don't believe it but you can if you wish. It just doesn't work with my understanding of God...not that I understand that much.

Life doles out what it doles out. It is entirely up to you how (or even if) you handle it. If you are lucky, and you have help - be it emotional support, another pair of hands or financial resources to pay for another pair of hands, resources to pay for therapy! - you might manage just fine. If you have none of these, but are especially resilient (lucky you!), maybe you'll manage just fine. If you have some support and just enough testicular/intestinal fortitude, maybe you'll manage just fine. The reality though is that it is not what is doled out in the form of the challenge, that determines whether you can manage, it is what was doled out to you in the form of internal and external resources that makes that determination. This is why I talk so easily now about making a plan and buying LTC and talking to family. The external resources I can help you with, the internal not so much.

beast of burden photo: 8-29-10 jackass1.jpgThe reality is that life will throw sharp pointy things directly at your head. There is no malice aforethought in it. That's just how life goes. What happens next, whether you are merely brought low or mashed completely flat; whether you are able to pull your cart or end up like brother donkey in the picture, depends entirely upon your level of planning and your level of resilience. I can't tell you where I am - brought low or mashed entirely flat; still pulling or looking like my friend in the picture, feet flailing - because I simply don't know. I'm still standing. I'm still singing. I even laugh sometimes, and tell jokes, so I guess that means I'm doing OK. Rest assured though, I'm not doing OK just because what was handed to me was no more than I could bear. That simply isn't the case. What I'm bearing now has been unbearable at times. It has recently become more bearable not because it's easier, but because I am finding my way to peace. I will not tell a lie. I wouldn't wish it on a most hated foe, but it is what it is and if I am to survive and be of use to the world once this journey ends, I must find a way to manage all that I carry.

My pastor friend is of the view that God does not send these terrible experiences to us. I believe that. The world is the world. Life is life. Life unfolds in complicated and sometimes unpleasant ways. All that we control, is how we deal with the things that befall us. So no, I really don't believe that "God doesn't give you more than you can bear". First off, whatever you're bearing didn't come from Him and second, history is littered with the stories of folk who just couldn't manage what was in their inbox. To mix my metaphors still further, remember that it was a single straw that broke the camel's back. Just the one.

At the beginning, the middle and the end of the day, I'm simply trying my best. I am muddling on and through. Where this is all going, the purpose of this grand adventure, I have no idea. I'm in it because I have to be. I manage by Grace and through internal resources I wasn't even aware existed. Could you? There's no way to know. But please let's not hide behind this notion that God doesn't give us more than we can bear. Whomever is handing out challenges is not in the measurement business. Your challenges aren't measured just for you, sized to be just big enough for you to wear them comfortably. Nope. It's not so. Challenges show up and you do the best you can and hopefully, prayerfully, you'll come out on the other side, still able to contribute to the world, neither mashed flat nor up in the air, feet flailing, no way to get down. That's my goal at any rate. We shall see what happens.

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