God never gives you anything you can’t handle.
I used to think this was true. I believed that I could do all things because Christ strengthens me! I can handle the difficulties of raising and homeschooling my kids. I can handle crazy schedules and running around, always feeling busy. I can tackle problems that come up with my kids with a quick prayer for help, knowing that the Holy Spirit would come through and help me know what to say and do.
But I’ve come to see that it’s actually a subtle lie.
I’ve seen faithful Christians living difficult lives: addictions and suicides and families falling apart and financial crises and children rejecting the Faith and all kinds of things. And yet, one of the most joyful Catholics I know has faced more than a decade of problems and crises and difficulties with more faith than I feel like I could muster in the same situation. I stand in awe of her courage and determination and, most of all, her faith that God has a plan for her and her family that will be the best thing for them all.
But, I can tell you this. She couldn’t handle all of that stuff. God gave her much more than she could handle.
The truth is that God frequently gives us more than we can handle, and He does it so that we can grow and learn that He will help us carry the load. He wants us to turn it over to Him and allow Him to share our burdens. He wants us to be able to say “Jesus, I trust in You” and actually mean it.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed after going back to work earlier this year. Even though I have turned in my notice (for good this time!), I have gone to full-time hours so I can attempt to put some money aside before I quit waiting tables. I’ve shared before about my struggles working as a waitress in my late forties, but lately I have been overwhelmed with irritation and anger while I’m at work. I get irritated by coworkers who don’t do their jobs (or do them half-way), and I get angry when there are no repercussions for the people who consistently refuse to pull their weight.
When I started full-time hours in early June, I told God I wanted to offer up my work. I put myself in the position to work doubles if necessary, to work 40 hours/week, even overtime if they wanted me to. But at two weeks in, I was making a poor offering. No, let me rephrase that. At two weeks in, I was making a horrible offering. I cried on my way home, and I went to Mother Mary with it, too ashamed to even talk to Jesus about how terrible I’ve been acting.
“I can’t make a good offering! I can’t do it! Mary, please! Please, you do it. You offer it for me because you can make it good.”
I’m not going to say I’m not irritated any more or that I don’t get angry when I walk in to open and I’m finishing up the work from the night before in addition to my opening duties. But I have felt more at peace, and less irritated (sometimes). And I know that Mary is going to take my crummy offering, clean it up a bit, and give it over to her Son. (It occurred to me after I did this that this is the point of that Marian Consecration I did. That only took a year and a half!)
I hadn’t shared this revelation with anyone else when my daughter told me a similar story.
Late last month, we went to Prep Day at Belmont Abbey College, where my younger daughter will be a freshman in the fall. There’s a lot of information packed into that one day, and it was a little overwhelming for her. She got a schedule, a student ID, she met her roommate, there were presentations for parents and students alike … it’s a lot of stuff to take in. After lunch, we stopped by a few tables for information on email, dorm life, and more. Then it was time for my husband and I to go to a parent session and leave our daughter to attend some optional student sessions, including something called “speed friending.”
Speed friending sounded like a nightmare to our already-overwhelmed child, and she told us she didn’t feel like going. “It’s fine. It’s optional, anyway. Maybe you and your new roommate can hang out or something.” When I asked how she was feeling, she said, “Like this is all a big mistake and I can’t do this whole thing.” After some more discussion, she said she would be fine and we left for the parent session.
Knowing she wasn’t really feeling fine, I immediately went to Mary and prayed a Memorare for our girl. (This is now my go-to prayer in almost any situation, thanks to Barb Szyszkiewicz, whose Memorare UP! comments online have inspired me.) Once that was over, I tried to relax and take in the information at the parent sessions. (Honestly, it was a lot for me, too.)
We found our daughter after the parent sessions, and she was definitely feeling better. She told us she’d gone to the Adoration chapel to pray, and that helped her. But when we got home again, she told me more of the story.
Instead of speed friending, she did walk to the chapel – alone. It was her first time walking on campus by herself, and that act alone empowered her to some degree. But what changed her attitude most was that she sat there, looking at Jesus in the tabernacle, and said in anger, “I can’t do this, Lord! I can’t do it! You do it! … I need You to do it for me.”
That act of turning it over to Christ changed how she was approaching college, just like my act of turning it over to Jesus through Mary changed how I was approaching work.
God frequently gives us more than we can handle, but He never expects us to do it alone.
What struggles are you trying to deal with on your own? How can you turn them over to Jesus and let Him help you carry them?
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson