Family Matters: Strength for living in difficult times


Have you ever gone through some extreme difficulty - a life-changing diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a crushing financial crises, some parenting nightmare? In the midst of that trial, did you ever receive a pat on the back and a reminder that “God never gives us more than we can handle” from some well-meaning friend?

Such a sentiment sounds reassuring, but it doesn’t always ring true. From what I can tell, God routinely gives us more than we can handle. It’s His modus operandi - the way He naturally operates.

That’s because God loves using our weakness to showcase His strength. And He loves doing it in a way that leaves no doubt as to whose strength we’re leaning on in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Think about it: If David had won a fist fight with a boy half his size rather than a death match with a giant who’d intimidated the entire Israeli army, no one would have lauded his bravery. If Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego had been thrown into a jail cell instead of a fiery furnace, nobody would be surprised when they came out unsinged.

If five loaves and two fish had been used to feed five people instead of five thousand, the meal would have seemed mundane, not miraculous.

Yet in each of these situations, God gave His children far more than they could handle on their own. And He does business the same way today. That’s one reason our family enjoys reading missionary biographies. They give us a glimpse at the amazing things God can do through a life that is wholly yielded to Him.

I recently read "Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime" aloud to my children, and they were completely mesmerized. “Just one more chapter? Please? Please?” they’d beg every time I tried to set the book down. They marveled at how, after being kicked out of missionary school, Gladys scrimped and saved for years until she could afford to pay for her own passage to China, even trudging through the snow on foot through war-torn Siberia to get there.

They rejoiced that, when Gladys was left without any means of support to continue her mission work in China, the Mandarin hired her as his Royal Foot Inspector, to travel throughout the countryside eradicating the practice of foot-binding and simultaneously carrying the gospel to the farthest reaches of the province.

They were astonished that the Mandarin would send this tiny British woman to quell a prison riot that was so violent, armed prison guards were too afraid of being killed themselves to attempt to stop it. Since Gladys claimed to have “the living God in her heart,” they believed she couldn’t be harmed and therefore insisted she do their job for them.

My children sat on the edge of their seats as Gladys led nearly 100 orphans to safety during the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

This book recounts the adventures of a woman who accomplished more in her 67 years than others could accomplish in ten lifetimes. Reading the account of her years in China leaves no doubt: it would have been impossible for her to do these things in her own power. God obviously strengthened her for the task. And He longs to do for us what He did for her.

So be encouraged! Sometimes God does give us more than we can handle, but He never gives us more than He can handle.


With 12 children, Jennifer Flanders knows how it feels to be in over your head, but has also learned that God strengthens those who lean on Him. To read more from this writer, visit


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