Does God Give Us “More Than We Can Handle”?

Question: People frequently tell me during tough times, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Is this Biblical?

Answer: Whether or not this statement is Biblical depends on what the speaker means by the statement. If it means we can make it through a situation and “handle” it with God’s help, then I’d agree with the sentiment—even though I think it’s not a particularly clear or helpful way to express it. When Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB), he wasn’t talking about achieving our dreams; he was saying that he could persevere faithfully in any circumstance—because the Lord enabled him to. In that sense, nothing is too hard to endure faithfully if we rely on His help to do so.

However, when people say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” what they frequently mean (and what we typically understand them to mean) is, “YOU can do this.”

If I’m saying God never lets me face anything too big for ME, that’s incorrect. Many people throughout the Bible faced difficulties that were far too big for them to overcome—difficulties where only God’s intervention made the difference:

  • Moses was stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the sea.
  • Gideon faced the entire Midianite army with just 300 men.
  • David stood alone against Goliath.

These are just to name a few. And, of course, we can’t forget Job—his suffering was beyond what anyone could handle. 

I think this saying may have come about from people unintentionally misquoting I Corinthians 10:13.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

I Corinthians 10:13, NASB

This says that God won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can endure—because He’ll provide an escape route. But that’s not the same as being able to handle any circumstance on our own. Sayings like that teach us to be self-reliant, while the Bible teaches us to rely on Jesus.

A better way to encourage or steel ourselves in trying times would be to remind ourselves of this saying:

He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me

II Corinthians 12:9, NASB

Note: This article is presented in response to a question Jared received—either from a church member or from someone online. These are published to help others with similar questions. In most cases, the exact wording of the original question and response may be edited to protect the anonymity of the questioner or to fit this format.