On January 3, 2019, I sat in the ER with my husband as the medical team ran tests to figure out why I was having chest pain and difficulty breathing. I was terrified and began to record a goodbye video for my daughter “just in case.”
In a period of 11 months my life had transitioned from a sappy, feel-good Lifetime movie to my version of hell on earth. My daughter Ellie and I had survived a horrific birthing emergency, yet after 10 short days of life she died in my arms in the NICU. We had a miscarriage 6 months after Ellie’s death, then another two months after that. My second miscarriage was diagnosed as a partial molar pregnancy and after 9 weeks of weekly labs and monitoring, I was diagnosed with cancer. Two weeks into my chemotherapy I was now sitting in the ER unsure of what my future held. I was over my maximum in “difficult life events” and I had hit rock bottom. I was officially holding more weight than my tired arms could carry.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard others say “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” a platitude that suggests someone is strong enough to deal with whatever crap life has thrown their way. Perhaps it provides assurance that things couldn’t possibly get worse, especially if you find yourself reaching your maximum. Not only is this statement unhelpful to someone who is suffering but I also believe it’s untrue. I can assure you that at that very moment I had been given entirely more than I could handle on my own.
But you see, that’s exactly the point. If I could do everything on my own, why would I ever lean on God? I didn’t just need His help, I needed Him to pick me up and carry me at this very moment.
2 Corinthians 1: 8b-9 (NIV) says: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
After Ellie died I found myself searching for a sense of control over my life that seemed to be spiraling into chaos. I wanted so desperately to become stronger I could be prepared to face anything that came my way. Yet here I was flat on my back in the ER at rock bottom, too emotionally weak to keep trying to rely on my own strength to get me through. I was fed up.
Not long after that ER visit I found myself literally screaming and yelling at God, finally throwing my hands up in the air. The truth is, I wasn’t strong enough despite my very best efforts. I was in desperate need of help and had been relying too much on myself and not enough on God. I prayed “God, I’m not asking you to fix my situation but I’m asking you make me strong enough to get through this.” I felt the walls of my hardened heart beginning to break down as I began to start relying on Him for my strength instead of my stubborn strong will. I still don’t get it right most days, but I sure am trying to cast my cares on Him because I know He can handle all of my mess.
Although our journeys may be different, I suspect that each of us has experienced life-changing situations that have pushed us to our breaking point. And yes, I do believe that sometimes you are given more in life than you can handle. Why? Because life is just so stinking hard sometimes. God isn’t trying to make your life miserable, it’s just the harsh reality of living in a broken world that’s full of disappointment and suffering. Maybe you’ve been trying to juggle the weight of the world on your shoulders, relying on your own strength to get you through. That may work sometimes but I’m telling you there’s a better, life-changing way if you can just trust God with your problems. Let Him carry you through these difficult times, just like He promised to.