You Must Think I’m Strong…

Written by Charles Meathrell

May 29, 2023

You probably know a lot of phrases that folks—even Christians—often mistake as biblical. They permeate our language to the point that we hardly question them anymore. “God helps those that help themselves” is one. That was not Jesus or Paul, but Algernon Sidney (later quoted by Benjamin Franklin). We like to say things like “God wants me to be happy!” (That one sounds fabulous out of the mouth of every prosperity preacher.) Another favorite adage is one we say when someone dies. We say, “Heaven gained another angel.” (That one sounds nice, but it’s unbiblical and terrible theology; angels are angels and people are people.)  

I could go on and on, but let’s throw one more out there just for funsies: when people are suffering, and, indeed, when we are suffering, we like to say that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Boy, that really makes you feel better, doesn’t it? The premise is that things will absolutely not get much worse than they are now. God is allowing you to go through all this stuff, but He really understands when to stop pushing all the troubles of the world onto you before you completely crack under the pressure. You will not break. You will not be crushed. 

 Well, I’ll bet you’ve really picked up on the theme that’s been laid out here: you’re a bright and clever individual, and you get it! Like the earlier adages, it sounds right but doesn’t stand up to closer study. The idea that God will stop allowing suffering to be added to you when you’re nearing your breaking point is nonsense. You can read the Bible from cover to cover and do all the word-searches you like in the apps. It’s just not in there. So then—what do we say about suffering?  

 Years ago, when my wife, Jessica, and I lived in South Carolina, we had a very dear friend, Cindy, who was battling leukemia for the second time. This time, it was far worse than the first time she’d had it.  She was often too ill to meet up with us and when we were able to meet, we sometimes had to be extremely careful not to get too close and risk giving her germs. 

 I vividly recall sitting in my living room with her and her husband, Dennis, and Jessica one day. She was sharing about how hard everything was for her and we listened to the song, “Strong Enough,” by Matthew West. The lyrics open with these words: 

“You must, you must think I’m strong 

To give me what I’m going through. 

Well forgive me, forgive me if I’m wrong 

But this looks like more than I can do on  

my own…” 

 That song really could have gone either way as far as message. It could have been this uplifting “He must not be planning to let you suffer much more than this…” kind of baloney. Instead, it came down to the simple, powerful admission, “I’m not strong enough to do this on my own.”

I’m not ashamed to share that the last few years have been some of the most challenging of my life for a lot of reasons, but Matthew West has the right idea when the song gets to his point. It’s not “God isn’t going to give me more.” It’s more like “I’m not strong enough; I need you now, God.” 

 Let’s chew on the idea of suffering for a few moments. At some point(s) we all come to that place of deepest sorrow. Why is that? 


“Good People”

There’s another fun trick we like to play on ourselves. It’s quite funny if you know many people at all. We like to ask, “Why  

do bad things happen to good people?” Well, the answer there is quite simple! They don’t! Scripture is very clear; Romans 3:23 famously says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The only exception was Christ Jesus; that’s why His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to cover all this sin! He had been absolutely blameless. 

To say that we deserve the things that happen is a stretch, but we’re by no means free from the guilt of our choices. We live  

in a world permeated by man-made ugly. That is a simple, terrible fact. Oftentimes we suffer because we live in the very consequences of our own choices, as individuals and as humanity. Unfortunately, we also sometimes suffer because we’re not  

always free from the choices of others. 

 Purposeful Pain

That’s one of my favorite terms and my church family has grown accustomed to it. The idea, often outlined in scripture, is that the things through which we suffer are often being used for our good, for the good of others, and for the good of the Kingdom.  

It’s tough, but useful to know and understand that.  

James 1 and Romans 5 both teach that the things that we’re going through grow our character. Remember that “suffering produces endurance…[then] character….[then] hope.” Remember, also, that what you are going through can be used for others. God used the abuse of Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37-50) to save many, many lives. Through tears, he said to his brothers, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 ESV) 


There are lots of reasons why we might be suffering. There are other important ones that I’m not going to cover here, but there is certainly one more that it would be a terrible shame for me to miss. One of my favorite parts of the story of the exodus from Egypt is a single phrase. Through all the plagues and death and sorrow—through the many trials that the Israelites went through—this one phrase stands out to me. God didn’t only say, “let my people go.” He said, “let my people go that they may serve me.” (Exodus 8:1 ESV emphasis mine.) 

Isn’t that something? Saying crazy things like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” isn’t just scripturally unsound—it is not an honest expression of the heart of our King. He loves us so much. He doesn’t want us to think of Him as giving us terrible loads to bear. He wants us to acknowledge the valleys through which we walk and lean into Him. 

Sometimes when I’m praying (and especially when I feel that familiar weight and burden on my heart) I look to my King and almost visualize crawling up into His lap because that’s how He loves me. Maybe that’s a little weird, but I do this and think about Jesus praying and saying, “Abba,” the Aramaic word for “Daddy.” 

There are so very many ways we are impacted by our culture. To be honest, most of them aren’t all that great. Perhaps among the worst of them are when we allow the world around us to impact the way we see our faithful, loving “Abba.” God’s not looking to test our limits. He doesn’t take any kind of sick pleasure in heaping torture upon us. He’s using our pain for good and pleading with us to crawl up into His lap. He just loves us all so much. 


Chuck Meathrell is the pastor of the Pataskala SDB Church in central Ohio. He is a life-long  

Seventh Day Baptist and has pastored in Ohio and South Carolina. He was raised in the Salem, WV, church and currently lives in Thornville, Ohio, with his wife, Jessica, three sons, and various animals. God is good. 

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