If there was one thing Facebook is good for (or possibly bad for) is the dispensing of canned advice through adages, proverbs, clichés, and quotes from a random assortment of famous people. I’m not going lie, I do love a good quote now and then. There have been great minds in our history who have profound things to say. There is one adage that annoys me to no end, and so you’ll have to forgive for doing a little bit of venting.
“God only gives you only what you can handle”.
Now this has nothing to do with me being an atheist. Even if I was a theist this statement would be wholly false. Like many of the adages floating out there on social media at best this applies to first world citizens, but even then it still seems like it could end up insulting a lot of people.
My first thought when I first heard the expression: well how many people die of starvation every day? For your information 1.5 million children starve to death in the world each year. That’s over 4,000 children a day, or about 1 child every 20 seconds. Clearly these children were given a situation in which they could not handle. Why would God give children such a situation to begin with?
What about all the people who die of cancer, heart disease, or other fatal conditions? What about the people who suffer nervous breakdowns, have undiagnosed trauma, severe depression? What of those who go a step further and tragically take their own life?
There is no doubt that all of us have a certain amount of adversity we have to face in life. We of course want to survive and for the most case if we can handle it, we will. Nobody wants to just let a difficult situation destroy their lives, or weaken them to the point of personal neglect. Ultimately we handle adversity the best way can, and hope that we are better and stronger for it afterwards. But there are plenty of situations that are beyond one individual.
What is most bothersome about the saying is what it implies about you if you couldn’t handle the situation. If God gives you only what you can handle, if you didn’t handle it, then it must be your fault in some way. You must be doing something wrong. If this message is supposed to give you strength to handle a situation, failure to do so may not bring you the peace you desire.
In the end it is a fairly empty piece of advice, applicable to relatively mild situations, and really only verifiable in hindsight to someone who got through a difficult situation successfully. Personally I think we can come up with something a little more helpful than this expression.