When I was in college, as part of my major, I had to go on an internship out of the country for at least six weeks. After months of searching and praying, I finally found an internship in Andalucia, Spain, with an organization called Camino Global (which has since then merged with Avant Ministries). It was required that I speak at least intermediate Spanish, and I had to raise funds all on my own. Then, when I finally learned Spanish and mustered up the funds, I had to take a plane by myself, and be in a country where I didn’t know anyone…all by myself.
Needless to say, it was more than I could handle.
A common misnomer is that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. The basis for this is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. I’ve wrestled with this for years because, as I struggle with anxiety and know that God has spared me from so much pain, I know that God truly is in control of my life. But there also have been times where I truly believed that God had given me more than I could handle.
The axiom should be replaced with God knows what we can handle. Instead of trusting in our own strength, we can trust in the grace of God. We can trust His hand to guide our lives. The early church was persecuted for their faith; Paul even says that when they were in Asia, they were burdened beyond what they could bear (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). But, as Paul declares, God didn’t allow them to go through beating and mocking for nothing. Rather, Paul and his missionary team endured trials so that they could rely on God and not on themselves.
We place limits on ourselves that God never put there. God also places limits on us through our circumstances when we think we can handle it. The same guy from the Bible, Paul, heard “no” from God several times. God actually prevented Paul from going to Asia and Bithynia at a certain point in his ministry (Acts 16:6). There are different speculations about why Paul wasn’t allowed to go to those places at those specific times, but the short answer is: it wasn’t God’s will. Maybe it’s that Paul couldn’t handle it, but maybe it’s that God knew what was best for everyone involved in the situation.
To come back to my experience in Spain, I did it. Taking a plane by myself was difficult, and even debilitating, but God provided. On the way there, I sat next to two gentlemen who traveled to Spain every year; they gave me advice about what to do, and they even showed me how to go through customs. On the way home (the longest flight I’ve ever been on), I sat with a boy from Israel whose family had moved to Texas; because he was sitting away from his family, I felt responsible for him, which gave me little time to worry. On my connecting flight, I sat with a guy who was a prayer leader for Liberty University, and he prayed with me during the flight. And that was just the plane.
The first few days were hard, but again, I did it. I made some friends and listened to music and practiced my Spanish. I had a couple of nightmares, and I did panic once, but God used the people around me to help me find peace in Him. By the end of the experience, I was ready to go back to Spain after paying off my college loans. Thank You, God, for your grace!
During that time, God knew what I could handle. His grace sustained me through the six weeks I was away from family and friends. In fact, His grace allowed me to make new family and friends. However, there were other times where I wanted to go and serve Him in other countries, but He closed each door. I like to think that God knew what I could handle, and that He found another person who He would grow like He grew me in Spain.
You’re braver than you think. You can handle more than you think you do. But for the things that debilitate you, trust in God’s grace. He knows what you can handle.