Follow by Email

Sunday, 22 November 2015

More Than I Can Handle

Recently, I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I asked how she was going and she commented, among other things, that life was tough and God was taking her constantly out of her comfort zone. I felt like I could relate all too well! This year in particular has been a huge growing year for me, feeling frequently overwhelmed by everything that’s been happening.

I almost made the comment that God must think us far stronger than we feel to be throwing all this stuff at us, but was stopped by a thought that instantly came to me. The thought that I’d missed the point entirely.

Sure, God sees me and I probably am stronger than I feel, but the challenges he sends my way have nothing to do with my strength – and everything to do with his.

There’s a saying I hear quoted far too often as a Bible verse – the idea that God won’t give us more than we can handle. One, it’s not actually in the Bible and two, to be honest, I think the opposite is true. I think God frequently gives us more than we can handle, not to prove our strength to us but to prove his. And the Bible is full of examples of that.

Let’s be honest, David couldn’t ‘handle’ Goliath. David was a scrawny kid and Goliath a giant of a man, not to mention a well-trained soldier. The only reason David defeated Goliath was because David saw God’s strength, instead of his.

And Gideon? Going up against an army of thousands with a few hundred men, trumpets and some crockery? I’m not a military strategist by any stretch of the imagination, but I can pretty safely say that’s a particularly bad plan. And yet, once again, Gideon and his piteously small band of men won.

God didn’t look at Gideon and say, "Ah, I know he can do this, if he’ll just believe in himself." Gideon’s strength, his self-belief, had nothing to do with his win. That was purely God.

And I think it’s the same with us. I think God constantly throws us more than we can handle, not because he wants us to realise how strong we are but to prove how strong he is. He’s under no illusions of how strong I am. He knows I’m weak. He sees how often I fail. He knows that no matter how hard I try, it still might not be enough.

But he also knows that how I handle the ‘too much’ he throws at me has far more to do with my faith in his strength than my faith in myself.

He knows he is strong. 

He doesn’t think me stronger than I am. Nope. He just knows that he’s stronger than I think.

Because he knows that he’s enough. Every single time.

God does give us more than we can handle. But he never gives us more than he can.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

God of the Cookie Cutters (aka When God Says No)

I never realised how terrifying faith was till the day I prayed with my young daughter that God would do something, and realised that he might not.

We’d been out shopping and found the perfect Christmas present for someone - a set of novelty cookie cutters for a wonderful baker in our lives. In pink. Because, of course, everything is better coloured pink (or so my daughters tell me!). Only, we’d didn't realise how perfect the set was until we arrived home.

So, we sat down and asked God to save us a set and have it waiting for us when we went back to the shops in the morning. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed a scarier prayer. It wasn’t that I didn’t think God could do it – I had complete faith that he could – it was that he might not. And, unlike just me praying it and knowing God would still be faithful if he didn’t answer it, this affected my daughter too. My daughter who’s only just learning who God is. My daughter who might very well decide God can’t be trusted based on this one prayer. Here’s me, telling her God can do anything, and he just might not. Seriously, scary.

So, we dropped back in to the store the next day, me selfishly hoping my daughter had forgotten all about that prayer while desperately hoping the set would be there so I could remind her of it. Of course, she hadn’t. As we were walking in, she told me that we had to remember to get the cookie cutters God had saved us. In that moment, I was as excited as I was filled with dread. God wouldn’t disappoint a child with such faith, would he? I just knew the cookie cutters would be there. I could picture the one set left there on the shelves for us. Proof to my daughter, and me, that God cared about the little things and that prayer is powerful.

They weren’t. The shelf was completely empty. I even tracked down a shop assistant and asked if they had any more. They didn’t. Sold out the first day. In every store. 

Despite our prayer, God hadn’t saved us a set. I had no idea what to say to my daughter. But it didn’t upset her like I thought it would. I think I was more disappointed. She just said something along the lines of, ‘oh well, maybe next time, or maybe we’ll get her something else!’

I’d love to say we sat down when we got home and had some big theological discussion about it, but we didn’t. For one thing, she’s only five, and the truth is, it just didn’t seem to bother her. She wasn’t disappointed with God. She wasn’t devastated the cookie cutters weren’t there. She was already thinking what other thing we might be able to get instead. Something even better than pink cookie cutters!

I don’t know why God answers some prayers the way we want and not others, but I have to believe he has a reason. And I have to believe that it is good. 

Faith will always be scary because it comes with no guarantees. God comes with no ‘formula’. We could be the most ‘spiritual’ Christians in the world, pray twenty-four hours a day, fast for days on end, and ask only what we are certain will bring about others’ salvations and is in line with God’s heart – and still have God say no. No, I will not give you that. No, I will not heal them. No, I will not change her heart. No…

But I wonder how often ‘no’ isn’t the end of the sentence. We walk off, angry or disappointed at the answer God gives only to miss what he says next:    

“Not yet.”

I wonder how many times we pray, desperate for something, certain only one answer will do – and God is sitting there on his throne, not stressed or flustered at all by our pleas but calm, saying simply 'wait'.

Just wait. I’ve got this. I haven’t forgotten you. I know you want this, I see your heart and how much you ache to see this prayer realised. I do too. But wait. Something better is coming. I know that’s not what you want to hear and I know you don’t understand but I’m not finished. I’m not done yet. There’s more to the story. Just wait.

The God of the Cookie Cutters isn't done yet.