Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Than I Can Handle?

I had an anonymous comment this week with a question.  Let me quote it here:

You know the saying -God never gives you more than you can handle? I am having a frustrating time in my life right now, and that saying doesn't make sense or comfort to me.. Nothing huge compared to you and many others is going on here, My husband is deployed and I am left in a new state by myself with 3 kids, one who is a newborn.. I don't mean to be mean or make you sad or anything.. I just keep hearing this advice and I just wonder what you think about it..? I just feel so overwhelemd and tired right now.. I'll survive I know that, just not with flying colors.. Am I suppose to? Is it even possible? Is that what the saying means? If so how? I truly don't understand and feel lost and lonley.

Let me start my answer by pointing out the falsehood in the saying. God does give us more than we can handle. For it is by realizing how utterly unable to handle things in our lives that we are most likely to turn to Him for help. He wants us to turn to Him for help and not to walk alone. When we turn to the Lord with all our hearts, He will help us to carry our burden. For it is WITH God that all things are possible. 

So the saying should be that God will never give you more than you can handle with His help. That is a true saying. But note that even then the saying did not say that we would have to handle our cross (whatever it may be) with ease or without the occasional stumble. 

Let us look to the scriptures for an example here. In the Book of Mormon there is a scripture in 1 Nephi 3:7 that says, "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

Here was Nephi sent with his brothers to do a seemingly impossible task. He and his brothers made a first attempt and were run out of the city. He thought of another strategy and tried again. This time he was run out of the city by guards trying to kill him. Do you think he felt like he was passing this test with flying colors? I am guessing not. But he was patient and persistent. 

He entered the city a third time with no plan. He entered with faith alone that somehow the Lord would be his partner in this venture and provide a way whereby he may complete his task. This time the Lord did provide a way and he was able to accomplish his task. But even then it was a difficult task for him and one he would rather not have had to perform.

Now drawing from my personal experience with this, I will first highlight a more distant trial to me. My first year of law school was very difficult for me. I moved 3000 miles from home where I had no friends or close family. I took a full time job to pay my bills and went to school each night after work.

At work I was in an office by myself all day. At school I sat and listened to a lecture with 150 other students for 3-4 hours. Then I went home and studied alone in my room for another 3 hours or so before calling my mom or Jon and then crying my lonely self to sleep. Each Saturday I spent studying and doing any other necessities like grocery shopping. Each Sunday I dedicated to church. I taught seminary during sunday school and either relief society or primary during the third hour. I did all my preparation for this on Sundays. 

I knew I was supposed to go to law school. I knew I was supposed to go to Georgetown to law school. I felt I was following the Lord's plan for me, even though it was not what I would have chosen for myself. It was incredibly exhausting and hard to keep that schedule every day. 

I did not get straight A's. I was not the top of my class. But I was also not the bottom. I did about average. One night as I went to class a classmate asked me if I was ready for our moot court presentations. I was stunned. That was tonight??? I wasn't even half done preparing. I thought it was in a few weeks. 

I skipped my first class and went to my dorm and got on my knees. I poured out my heart in a desperate prayer. I was totally unprepared. I had done some research but had not pulled my arguments together. I had to present my argument before a panel of judges who would try to rip them apart in an hour. My only hope was the Lord.

I gathered my research papers, looked them over, and headed for the courthouse. The judges ripped apart each of the people who proceeded me. The teacher then harshly critiqued their presentation. I got up to take my turn knowing there was nothing I could do more.

Within a few sentences of my argument the judges started interrupting to question me on the things like the standard of review. I didn't even remember what "standard of review" meant. I didn't know the different standards of review. I only knew that one of them was strict scrutiny. So that is what I said. Then I continued with my argument. The judges seemed to listen more than question after that. The teacher had nothing ill to say to me in my review. 

During a break after my turn one of the judges came to me and asked if the standard of review was really strict scrutiny. I said, "I have no idea. I didn't know so I just guessed." The judge laughed and said it was not the right answer but that I had said it with such confidence that it made her think she must be wrong. I ended up scoring very well in this assignment. 

The point was that it was totally the Lord helping me through this that allowed me to survive this experience that night and the sum of all those nights that very lonely first year.

In my current trial -- well this is a new level of hard for me. Those first days in the hospital ... I sat in the consolation room saying over and over through my sobs "I can't do this. I just can't do this." How could I still be breathing when she was not? How could my heart still be beating? There was an enormous hole right through my middle. Was there even a heart still in there? If so it had to be broken beyond repair. 

I would look at myself in the hospital bathroom just to verify that I still was there. Somehow I still existed. Somehow I was still living even while the sweetest part of me lay dying down the hall. This trial was more than I could handle. It just was. I knew it. And the Lord knew it. That is why he sent my family all around me to help bear me up. That is why he poured his Spirit out to me and Jon as we knelt in fasting prayer every hour in that hospital.

I did not feel at that time that I was surviving well and "coming through with flying colors." When my family would say, "we are worried about you," I would reply, "So am I."  I was just surviving hour by hour, day by day. And in our darkest hours that is sometimes all we can do. And sometimes that is enough.

When we must pull ourselves up to the greater task (like me giving that presentation unprepared or speaking at my daughters funeral or having to make the decision to turn off the life support machines and hold her as the last bit of life slipped from her body) well then the Lord is there for us. He makes us strong enough to bare the task. He holds us up because we have turned to Him.

This is why it is so important to daily be striving to follow the Lord and seeking Him out. So that in the hour when we need Him most, we remember to turn to Him and He knows us and knows that we have been doing our part to do His will and be faithful. Then we more readily receive that help we so desperately need. We do not have to doubt in our own minds our worthiness because we have been doing all we can to live worthy.

I hope always to live my life in such worthiness. To never feel that I am not trying my best. I don't expect perfection from myself. But I know personally whether I am trying my best or not. I hope always to be prepared so that I may with a clean conscious go to the Lord for help when I need it and not feel unworthy of receiving that help.

So to the Anon commenter, I hope you will turn your heart as fully as you can to the Savior and find in Him the help you need to fulfill your daily trying tasks. You need not be a perfect mother. Just do your very best. It is okay if their hair doesn't get combed and the house doesn't get picked up every single day. 

Just tire yourself out doing your best. In so doing, I hope you find the Lord is your partner in raising your children and in the critical moments He will help you be the mother you must be to them. He will inspire you in how to teach and train them in all the important things. And he will send either a friend or the Comforter to be with you in the lonely hours. 

Make Him your full partner and truly there will be nothing in this life that the two of you can't handle together.


Diane said...

Stephanie, again, you have put things in perspective. I appreciate your wisdom and strength. Thanks for continuing to write. You are blessing many lives. To Anon, hang in there.

Sarah said...

This was beautiful. Thank you for this. I too needed to read these words. I have learned so much from you and your endless example. Thank you.

To anon. Please call your R.S. president and tell her about your needs. So many people are just waiting to serve and to be needed. And don't be afraid to ask for help.

Anonymous said...

As a person with no children left at home, helping others with small children is one of my greatest joys. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance. You and others will have amazing blessings because you had the courage to ask for help!

The Ballstaedts said...

Stephanie, That was such a beautiful post! What a great blessing you are to so many people.So thanks!

kathryn_m said...

AMEN, Stephanie ... AMEN!

Kara Jayne said...

There is a reason we are told often to "endure to the end." Sometimes just enduring what we encounter is success. I have to tell myself that on some days.

You are so wise Stephanie and I really enjoy your perspective on things. I love how you always really get around to the "spirit of the law", not just the letter.

Karisa Lynn said...

Another inspirational and meaningful blog. You are truly incredible!! Thank you for your words of wisdom, your stories, blessings, examples, and kindness. You are one remarkable woman!

Jennie said...

You are amazing! I truly get inspiration from you with every post. You have a gift with words, and explaining things. We just read that very story of Nephi last night for family night, and had a great discussion on it. I wish I had seen your post before. :) I know I've said this many times, but sincerely thank you for your wisdom, and your humble way of sharing it with others.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That was amazing. I loved the way you worded this. My husband is gone for 18 months with the military and I, too, struggle at times. Since he has been gone, I've had an ectopic pregnancy and required life saving surgery. I kept telling myself I was not going to be given more than I could handle. All the while, though, through the pain of a ruptured tube, surgery, and recovery while still caring for our daughters...we kept saying our prayers and asking/pleading for help and giving thanks for all we have been given. I guess I always believed that extra part about needing the Lord to help us...but I love the way you have worded this and put this in perspective. Thank you! I know it has helped me and I do hope that it is of help to Anonymous.

Harlene said...

Very well put! to Anonymous, there's great comfort and strength in allowing others to serve, in fact it is one of the most selfless things we can do. To turn from our pride, and allow others in. It was not easy for me to accept help, most of the time it still isn't, but I know some of my choicest experiences have been from allowing others to serve me, and reaching out and serving others. Especially when I was hanging by a thread.

Don't overlook the need for medication or a chat with your Dr. Having a newborn on your own can't be easy for anyone, hormonal issues will only complicate matters.

My prayers and love are with you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that other anonymous commenter asked that particular question of you. The last week or two I've been struggling as well. It's a roller coaster I've dealt with since I was young. Your words were the reminder I needed tonight. Thank you for living worthy to receive the inspiration needed to serve us, your readers.

Jennifer said...

Your words always motivate me. My trials are so small compared to others. I needed your words to remind me of what I should be doing. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much! I am deeply touched by your words. I feel very uplifted, and motivated once again. I am not good with words... But I want you to know, that you taking the time to answer my question meant alot to me. My burden has been lightened. I feel like I am ready to try harder, and understood that I need to trust and turn to our heavenly father and others around me more. My heart is full of thanks to you..
I will read this many times to recieve strenght and hope again and again..


Amanda said...

I have been in this same situation before. I moved 3000 miles away from friends and family to be with my husband and found out I was pregnant right after we got there. He was starting up a game company that failed horribly, we had no money and I was severely depressed and had many many complications with the pregnancy, I had severe pre eclampsia and was hospitalized.

It was the hardest year of my life and I felt so alone but somehow I made it thought it. I prayed so much during that time. I didn't think I was strong enough to make it though. There were ice storms and our power was turned off because we couldn't pay the bill we could barely pay our rent...it was the lowest and most scared I've ever been in my life.

But I was carried through it by my family, though far away they were a huge help with love, with money and also I know that God was looking out for me.

You can get though this...it's not easy and it will be hard but don't be afraid to ask for help.

Amanda said...

You might also want to talk to your Dr about post partum depression. I've battled with depression my whole life and medication though not a magic cure can help you out so much in just you outlook on things!!

ALS said...

I just wanted to add my two cents, thanks Stephanie for such a wonderful post. My husband was deployed when our kids were a little smaller, we didn't have a newborn, but our two at the time were two and almost one. I have to say it was the hardest and best experience of my life. The Lord taught me things about myself and brought me so much closer to him during that time. Don't be too hard on yourself and do ask for help. Our ward family was so helpful in the beginning and then it died away and I had to learn to ask for what I needed and I found that people were so willing to help, they didn't always know how and they needed me to tell them. I'm glad Stephanie that you said there was no flying colors, there's not, we just do the best we can everyday, seek the Lord and don't beat yourself up, He loves you and as hard as this is, he will strengthen you.

Janae said...

Stephanie~ beautiful post. Thank you for your wonderful insight:)

Alisha said...

I really enjoyed reading that post.

a.k.a. Jack said...

I too am feeling that I have more in my life than I can bear right now. This morning I woke up still feeling discouraged. I came to your blog to feel uplifted and, not only was it uplifting, but you had written the very words I needed to hear today. The Nephi scripture was exactly appropriate to my current situation. I have heard that scripture a million times. In fact, it is a scripture that my mom helped me memorize when I was a kid so that I could present it at the end of primary on Sunday. But, for some reason, I have never applied it in quite the way you just did. I, like you, like to plan and prepare everything in my life. I like to be in control. Right now, as much as I want to make a plan, it simply isn't possible (there are too many unknowns) and I have to rely on the Lord to "prepare a way". But, I needed to hear you say it in order to accept it. Thank you for your inspired words. They were truly a tender mercy for me today.
Love Ya,

Micaela said...

That is such great insight. I have been trying to find a balance between what is important and what is not and this post really helps a lot. Thanks for sharing your experiences so openly.

The "Street" Clairs said...

Thank you for that reminder. I need to be reminded of what I should do with the turmoil in my head and haert with two situations I am dealing with. One will probably never work out but I know if I turn to the lord he will provide peace and the other-well I know that I will be hurt and it will be difficult but I really feel now that I will be able to stand tall, and have peace on the day when it comes. thank you!

Anonymous said...

I love the quote that was given to me, when I was going some very very dark moments in my life........
"God doesn't give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given".

Kenny + Michelle + Charlie said...


Although I have not commented before, I have read your blog for some time now and am continually touched by your writing. I am truly sorry for your loss of Camille and amazed at your ability to continue living life and being a strong family.

I have also struggled with this quote for several months now as my family has gone through a difficult time, though not as difficult as yours. My husband had 4 brain surgeries in a 3 week period of time for a growing pituitary tumor and this was just as our son turned 2 months old. To care for him and learn about all of his medical conditions, I was forced to live away from our son during that time and to say the least it was difficult for both of us.

I often thought of the quote God only gives us what we can handle and wondered how I can handle all of this and why now. And then I read blogs like yours and realized I can handle this, if I rely on Him. And that he does have a plan for all of us. So this post, speaking directly to that thought is something I have thought of too.

So, thank you for sharing your life and thoughts. You have a wonderful angel watching over your family. And congrats on your next baby.


Anonymous said...

Wow. It's that simple. Wow.

Well done, Stephanie.

Susy said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for daily inspiration!

Brad, Rebecca, Jacob said...

Stephanie - you really have a way with words and explaining things. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and insight.

chanel said...

PERFECT advice. I just wanted to let you know I had our boy, and it is more magical than I could have ever imagined! You're gonna melt to pieces when your peanut gets here! No worries.

Elizabeth Clayton said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your example of courage and faith.

Kr!sty said...

After reading your post and the comments that followed, I am speachless. It's good to know we're not alone, in more than one way. Thank you.

Bacardi Mama said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. God bless you!

tara @ kidz said...

This question made me think of a post I read awhile back that one of my readers shared:


It's a bit of an object lesson on the subject.

Liz H said...

Stephanie: I had to add my two cents to this. I love Elder Wirthlin's talk "Come What May, and Love It".

He talks about disappointments and struggles, but then gives a list of things he's learned.
*Learn to Laugh
*Seek for the Eternal
*The Principle of Compensation (this is my favorite this week because it reminds me the Savior didn't just suffer, die and resurrect for my choice to repent of my sins and help me attain eternal life, but also to show that he wept my tears, felt my sorrow, understood my disappointments and comprehended my loneliness....)
*Trust in the Father & the Son.

It's a talk worth reviewing and taking to heart.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments on this topic. I know these principles to be true and am so grateful for your reminder. I wish you all the happiness and joy in the world. I believe that you are truly blessing the lives of others through your example.

Katie said...

My sister just sent me your blog. Thank you so much for your comments. I have such a testimony that the Lord knows us and loves us and is waiting to bless us. I battled cancer in 2007 and it has returned only much worse this time. I am the mother of 6 under the age of fourteen. I have survived only through faith and trust in Heavenly Father. I know without a doubt that those tender mercies he promises us are there in so many forms. Sometimes it takes an eye that is looking to notice them and to acknowledge them.

And there is much to be said for accepting the help that is offered. So many people want to help and it takes humility to say yes. I am still learning that it is okay to accept the help you need!

Thank you again for your beautiful words of comfort and encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so strong and filling other lives with your strength and wisdom.

There are so many days that I feel like a BAD mother... I might lose my temper, or I don't get my dishes done, or laundry folded and hung. I feel like a failure to my children and my husband. (Especially when things are not going good in my life.) Then other days I get twice the amount done that I had expected, I give my kids twice the hugs, and give my husband the meal he deserves after a long day of work. It has taken a long time, but I really feel like it's the days that I am closer to my Heavenly Father that I am able to be "super" mom and accomplish things that are on my task list. I just need to realize that I need to have him in my heart ALL the time, and start my day with a prayer and ask him to lead and guide me during the day.

Thank you for putting things into perspective, and bearing your testimony. I really felt your spirit testifying to me, and I REALLY needed that right now.
Thank you. You are a true angel.