The consoling quote, “God will never put you in a situation that you cannot handle" is about as comforting as: “Your pantry will always be stocked with fresh ambrosia apples and aciago cheese.”
Neither quote is found in The Bible either. But someone, including me, may have at least once thought it came straight from God’s word. I even remember telling folks “The Lord would never put you in a situation you can’t handle” and seeing the reassurance dawn on them. I don’t think I was doing that much good if I wasn’t telling the truth.
The truth? I’ve been in situations I can’t handle. I had a medical doctor take me into a little room and tell me my daughter had cancer. Think of jetlag so disorienting it feels like a bad dream. That’s kind of what it felt like. That was a situation we couldn’t handle. Whether or not God put us there is debatable. I still struggle a bit with everything that happens being a part of God’s master plan or not. But what happened after the bottom dropped out of our lives is we managed to get through it to press on.
Over the past month or so our family has been able to help out other people who have been in crisis. Some opportunities were simply sharing blessings that had been shared with us. Other times it was just doing what we could. Sometimes it was just praying for others.
It had been a little scary to see other people in crisis around us. And the reason it was scary I think was very selfish of me. I wondered if we were next. We’ve been pretty comfortable lately with no major crisis for awhile. We’re here in our comfortable home with chickens in the backyard and a steady paycheck for me. The worst thing for me right now is a broken down pickup truck. Around us, friends have been living through some tough times and we’ve joined others in helping them out. But when I prayed for friends I found myself wanting to say “please, God, help us not to have bad stuff happen to us?”
That seems awfully selfish. I might as well ask God for a refrigerator full of my favorite kind of cheese and apples. (Of course I would share it all).
Instead of hunkering down in fright I really wish I could trust God more. These “situations I cannot handle” that I’m afraid of shouldn’t be paralyzing me before they happen. And if and when they happen, well… where will I be? Where can anyone be when the walls of their life turn to dust?
I have been in situations I couldn’t handle before. And each time I got through to see another day. Sometimes it took more than a day to get through. But I never made it on my own. Because each time I’ve been in overwhelming circumstances, in over my head, there has been a life line thrown to me.
The day after Naomi was diagnosed with cancer a little girl and her parents visited our hospital room. The little girl had just relapsed and showed Naomi her access line that was standard for pediatric oncology. As the little girl stood on Naomi’s bed, the her mom reached over and brushed her hair out of her daughter's face and it came away in her fingers. Prajna started crying and I nearly lost it too. The little girl’s dad took me aside and told me something.
“It gets better,” he said.
I knew he wasn’t promising that Naomi would get better. He knew exactly what I was feeling and told me that the dizzying fear and confusing would subside. I believed him. I felt better right then. It was the first encouragement I got in that long turbulent chapter of our lives. And all it had to be was a few words of experience.
Over the next years we were showered with blessings in all ways. People did what they could. Those were the life lines that we as His hands and feet throw to each other. One time all it took was a voice of experience, words I never forgot, to tell me that even though I was in a situation I couldn’t handle, I wasn’t alone.