Hey friends! Today’s post is a little delayed because I received some really deflating news about my hip yesterday and I needed to be able to process it with Dan last night instead of preparing a post to go live. But I am hoping to get back to regular scheduled posts moving forward. Thanks for your patience over the last few weeks as I navigated Molly’s appointment, steroids, and then this. I appreciate all the check ins and good vibes.
Lately I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the phrase, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” And I know some of you will notably cringe when you read this, but that phrase is a load of crap. That’s putting it mildly. I have much stronger words that I’m tempted to use but I’m hoping my disdain for that phrase is clear enough that I can leave it there.
My family and I have taken some punches the last few years. We are nearing the end though! Molly officially has 26 doses of oral chemo left and then she is done with active therapy. We have been looking forward to this day for over 2 years. So it feels extra cruel that yesterday I received news that I need an extensive hip surgery that will require a long recovery. I am definitely guilty of thinking “this doesn’t feel fair!” or “when do we get to catch a break?!” or “why does this always happen to me?!” I don’t think any of those thoughts because I somehow feel like they should happen to someone else or that I am above them. But I do think there’s a level of conditioning we have received that makes us believe if we are good people we should escape some pain, or that once we do our time we should receive a break. But there is no meter tracking how our stress measures against our resilience. There are no bonus points for being a kind person. There is no system for earning breaks or rest. The past few years have taught me that neither the good or bad moments in this life are moral. Sometimes bad things happen and it isn’t a reflection of me or the way I’m living my life. Sometimes life is just life and I am just human and sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it really freaking sucks.
It makes it increasingly difficult to accept the reality that life is just life when you’re being told, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” That phrase is so minimizing. It takes very real pain and struggle and stress and simply says it’s not too much. Handle it better. You’ve got this. It doesn’t matter how you feel, what your perspective is, how overwhelmed you are…it’s not too much. It’s like patting someone on the back and saying, “it can always get worse.” Which is almost always true. But it isn’t the least bit helpful. There is no hierarchy to pain, grief, and suffering. We can never know and fully understand the weight of someone else’s struggles. What seems minimal to us may be back breaking to someone else. We cannot know. Which also means we can never judge how much someone can handle. Shoot, I can’t even judge how much I can handle. But I do know that when you’re expecting to be able to come up for air and then you’re shoved back under the water, drowning feels like drowning regardless of what’s keeping you down.
If our benchmark for how much we can handle is whether or not something is killing us, maybe it is time to re-evaluate our standards. The thought that as long as you’re alive you should be able to handle all that life throws at you is so dangerous. It robs us of the ability to name our stress and to ask for help. Because the truth I’ve been exposed to would say that God gives us more than we can handle every freaking day. Every freaking day. And the only way to survive it is to ask for help, let people in, set boundaries, and lean on each other. The idea that we are supposed to just handle all the things and that if we admit we can’t handle them then somehow we are flawed keeps us stuck. That idea by itself is enough to keep our heads under water. But we are all going to run out of breath at some point. The only way to catch some air is to accept we cannot handle it alone.
Sometimes life will feel like trauma hopping. We will bounce from one awful thing to the next. We will have to rely on other people to pull us up for air. Other times we will have to be the ones supporting and carrying the oxygen masks for our friends. That is life though. And when I think of some of the most beautiful connected moments of my life they’re during these times. There’s a vulnerability in these moments that allows for more authentic connections. There’s a richness born out of our need and ability to rely on someone else and to be relied upon. But assuming I don’t need those people or that there won’t be times I’m needed robs us of all that goodness. If we don’t stop trying to handle it all alone, if we don’t stop minimizing struggle, if we don’t stop pressuring people to keep it together then we are going to drown. The only way to fill your lungs is to breathe in the beauty of those around you.
And while I want to close on that line because it is such a wonderful thought, it is also an oversimplification. When life is hard we have to find ways to ask for help: with meals, with childcare, with transportation, etc. When we are exhausted beyond belief we have to find ways to rest. This is so much easier for some of us on a personality level but it is layered with privilege too. We have to recognize once again that we cannot know another person’s struggles. We cannot know what any single person needs unless we ask and unless we are willing to act in real and tangible ways.
Be brave. Be you. Be human.
With so much love and gratitude,
*Originally published June 2022 and republished August 2023