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.