It’s OK to Be Overwhelmed


“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

We were going through a particularly trying time in our lives, and my friend was trying to be helpful.

The problem? Her advice wasn’t true. God had given me more than I could handle. The situation was overwhelming. I was exhausted, my nerves were frayed, and there was not even a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I was beginning to consider the benefits of a nervous breakdown.

Try looking up that quote in the Bible.

That’s right. It isn’t there. Nowhere in scripture does God even imply that He won’t give us more than we can handle. Rather, it’s quite the opposite.

Look at Job. Could you handle the destruction of all your property, then the death of all your children, all followed by a critical illness? Neither could Job: “My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me” (Job 17:1).

Look at Moses. “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:14-15, italics mine).

Moses had learned his lesson from a previous experience. In Exodus 18, he’s the sole judge for the entire nation of Israel. He’s so good at it that he sits in judgment from morning to night, surrounded by crowds seeking his wise decision.

The one thing he isn’t wise about is his own limitations. It takes Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to come along and tell him, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18, italics mine)

Look at Paul.  “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. 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” (2 Cor. 1:8-9a, italics mine). If you want details, Paul describes his sufferings in 2 Cor. 11:21-30.

Look at Jesus. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). I don’t know if you’ve ever sweated blood—even in my most desperate moments, I have never been in that much distress. In fact, Jesus was in so much agony that the previous verse says, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”

In spite of our assumptions, the quote attributed to Mother Teresa is clearly a misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 10:13—“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

It’s not the situation from which God rescues us, it’s the temptation.

Go back over all these examples. Job never cursed God. In fact, he yearned for Him! (Job 19:25-27.) Moses never lost his faith in God. Paul endured the beatings and other abuse—even his execution—rather than deny Christ. Jesus died without sin.

In every example, God provided a way past the temptation.

How did He do this? Stay tuned for next time…

Have you ever been given more than you could handle? How did you make it through?

3 thoughts on “It’s OK to Be Overwhelmed

  1. Hi Leslie,

    Your posting reminded me of Psalm 142:3, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path”.

    If I were not overwhelmed, I would not be whelmed at all. I’ve spent my whole life overwhelmed. But I just keep plugging away even when I feel it is useless. The one Scripture I rely on more than any other is that we are “accepted in the Beloved”.

    Ginny and I talked it over last night and I’m considering calling a counselor today.


  2. John, my friend Cynthia just posted a book recommendation on her blog:

    Life is definitely overwhelming. We were never meant to struggle through it on our own. Although I only know you through your comments and your blog (and now your book!), you and Ginny seem like pretty amazing people. I hope the counselor helps.

  3. I always wondered where that phrase came from! It gets thrown around so much… but it never is really that encouraging. It’s almost like it makes you feel guilty to feel overwhelmed. That God clearly would never give you too much, so you’re in the wrong to feel that way.
    Instead, we are given way too much so that we must give it all back to God to handle for us. Because, yes, we can’t handle it all on our own.

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