Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Than You Can Handle

"'Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle.'
People repeat this frequently; I heard it when I was growing up and I hear it now. It is meant to be a source of encouragement, and it would be if I believed it were true. 
But I don't. 
I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle. Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives. " - Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie p. 135 

I couldn't agree more. I, also, have heard that saying for years. I used to accept it as gospel truth. Literally. Yet, as one thinks about it more, it makes you wonder. After all, there are no verses that support that saying in the Bible. Don't believe me? "Google it" as the old man says (or maybe I should say, "young man says..."). 

Why did God give so many people in the Bible, more than they could handle? Was it more than they could handle or were they "super-people"? Did God only give assignments like that to people who can handle more than the average person? They are the "Bible Characters" after all. Surely they knew that pictures of them would be on glossy paper all over Children's Sunday school classrooms thousands of years after they lived. Surely they knew that, right? 

What do you think? I don't think they did. I don't think they were "super-people." I believe that they were ordinary people. But one thing that they all had in common was the word, "yes." They all said "yes" to God's call. They were just people. They were given impossible tasks. 

I'm sure Joshua looked up at the walls of Jericho and didn't think, "Oh I can handle this!! This isn't more than I can handle!!!" No! I believe that he looked up at those huge walls and gulped a hard swallow. I bet he said, "Oh Lord, this is MORE than I can handle. You alone can do this."

1 But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2

God does give us a lot sometimes. Or at least he has for me. But He promises to be with us. He won't let us go and expect us to make it on our own. We can't. We may think we can.... but at some point it's just too big. Too much. 

Philippians 4:13 seems to be about everyone's favorite Bible verse, but I wonder if we really know what it means. "Nothing is impossible with God." Sometimes I think, "Nothing is impossible." I leave out the "with God part." Only with God is the impossible possible. You can try all day to fix your problems claiming that verse, but without God, you have nothing... I have nothing. 

God may give you more than you can handle, dear friend. But He doesn't want you to handle it alone. When you want to scream up at Heaven, "This is TOO MUCH!" Just remember one thing. God gave all of that to you because He wants to use you. He wants to use YOUR life as an example of His amazing glory, His love and His redemption.   

When we let God handle our "too big" problems, He alone can get the glory. And that was the plan all along. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Love That's Not Gushy

喜爱. amour. die Liebe. αγάπη. 愛. 애정. amor. любовь. 

They all mean love. Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian. 

Love is everywhere.

Love is usually portrayed as gushy, mushy and easy. And it can be. Heaven knows that it can be.  It can be so soft and easy and warm and fuzzy. 

Sometimes it's not. 

We love everything... or so it seems. "Love" is one of the most used words in relation to people and things in this world. We love football, music, chocolate, clothes, pets, people, technology. 

Love is mostly described to us as an emotion that overtakes us. It comes without our deciding to let it in. We "fall" into it. That's what we are often told... but is that true? Sometimes it is true that love can pull us to something or someone and we can hardly resist it. 

Sometimes it doesn't. 

Sometimes love is the last thing we feel and the last thing we want to show. Sometimes people make us mad. Sometimes things are not fair. Sometimes love seems so far away. 

Without even knowing it, we are taught to love if others loves us. If we aren't feeling loved, then we are encouraged not to lower ourselves to show love and be a doormat. Right? Wrong. So wrong. At least according to Scripture. 

1 John 3:1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

What about Hosea and Gomer? She was a prostitute who ran from her husband, Hosea, constantly. She showed no love, yet Hosea bought her back while she was still wallowing in her sin. What about Joseph? He could have killed his brothers for their evil sin years before, but he didn't. He loved them and forgave. What about the Prodigal son and his father? The boy was a fool and ruined his life, but the father welcomed him home and gave him another future. 

What about Jesus? What about His love? The greatest love of all. 

Love is often hard. Very hard. Valentines Day is a sweet day out of the year filled with flowers, chocolates and balloons to remind us to "love." But the greatest love of all is often love coupled with forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is a kind of love... the hardest kind. It is bitting your tongue when you feel your chest about to explode with anger. It is pulling the person into your arms even when you want to push them away. 

I just finished reading one of my favorite books of all time, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, about Louis Zamperini. Love is what the WWII prisoner of war Zamperini showed to his Japanese tormenter of 3 years. The man named, Mutsushiro Watanabe, called "The Bird" by the POWs, hated Olympic runner and Second Lieutenant Zamperini more than anyone else. He beat him mercelesly. He played mind games with him and constantly threatened to kill him. He beat the starving man's head with a belt buckle, and did all in his power to destroy the unbreakable American. And when Zamperini was freed right before his official date to be killed in the prison camp, he began an obsession that lasted several years. The obsession was how to kill "The Bird." It nearly destroyed him and plunged him into alcoholism. But Zamperini went to Billy Graham's tent revival in Los Angeles and God changed him and his obsession. Louis forgave his tormenter. And sent him a note. At the end it said, "I hope you too, will become a Christian." The Bird never responded back, but Louis had forgiven and he was free. 

Maybe this Valentine's Day, along with all the sweet love and easy happiness, we can offer love to those that don't fall at the top of our lists. That may be a family member who has hurt you, or just someone that is out to make you miserable. Show the love Jesus showed. Love that is undeserved and flows freely.