More than you can handle?

Karen Muenterman

Connecting Faith and Life

There is a very popular saying among Christian folk that states, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” This is a comforting quote; but it can also cause a lot of stress because when we find ourselves unable to handle all the things that God has presumably assigned to us, we can feel bad about ourselves. We may feel we are deficient because we are too incompetent or too lazy to shoulder all our responsibilities.

Sometimes though, when we are unable to stay on top of all our duties and responsibilities, it is not because we are incompetent, lazy, or irresponsible – but simply because we have too many things to keep track of. And it’s quite possible that all these things were not assigned to us by God! 

Many years ago, when my daughter was in fourth grade, she decided she wanted to be a cheerleader. I supported her decision, patted her on the back and happily signed the permission slip for her to join cheerleading. A few days later, I got a call from the school asking me to be the coach for the fourth-grade cheerleaders. I said no because I had no cheerleading experience at all; I was a bookworm who had never done a cartwheel in my life, and I was already way too involved in my children’s extracurricular activities. I felt very confident in my refusal until the school representative regretfully informed me that I was the last parent on the list to be contacted, that everyone else had refused and that if I didn’t coach the fourth-grade cheerleaders, there would be no fourth-grade cheerleaders. 

Immediately, a tremendous burden of responsibility descended upon my mushy bookworm shoulders. The fourth-grade cheerleaders were on the endangered list, and the only person who could keep them from going extinct was me. Obviously, saving these cheerleaders from extinction was my sacred duty.

So, of course, the next thing I knew, I was ineptly coaching fourth-grade cheerleading practice twice a week and awkwardly squirming through games every weekend. For an entire school year, I lived with the shame of being the absolute worst fourth-grade cheerleading coach in the history of the Mater Dei feeder league.

This is just one very lighthearted example of me taking on a responsibility that I had neither the time nor the talent for. I’ve done it countless other times, and many of those times, the responsibility was much harder to handle than fourth-grade cheerleaders. For most of my adult life, I have had trouble determining which duties and responsibilities God is calling me to. I have one of those personalities often referred to as “people pleasers,” so it has always been very difficult for me to say no to anyone asking for any kind of help. 

Over the last few years, I have finally come to realize that not every request for assistance that comes my way is my sacred duty to fulfill. Sometimes, God is calling me to say “no” and pass the job onto someone who is a better fit for it, or possibly to someone who just has more time or more energy.

I have finally realized that God will never give me more than I can handle, but unfortunately, sometimes other people will.