Was Mother Teresa right?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the little Albanian-born missionary to the least of these in India was a remarkable woman. No doubt about that. She gave her life out to suffering people in a self-sacrificing way that I know God was honored by and pleased with!

One quote, however, that she said has become almost known as a piece of Gospel truth in Christian circles. I saw it last week on Facebook. I heard it from friends the other day. I bet you have heard it too sometime these past weeks. If you do a Google search on it you’ll find out that people even claim that it’s in the Bible, even though that’s not the case. The quote from Mother Teresa goes like this:

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much

And the short version is of course: “God will never give you more than you can handle!” While that may sound good, and it’s considered true by many Christians, it actually isn’t true if you go to the Bible and start looking at the truths displayed there, or even if you look at your own or somebody else you knows life. There are many times where God wants us to be in situations where we are in way over our head. He longs to bring us into situations where we don’t know what to do, and we don’t have the strength to carry on. David calls that place “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23. It’s a lonely place where you come to the end of yourself. It would be the most terrible place in the world, if it wasn’t for the fact that Jesus promises to go with us there – “I fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod, and your staff they comfort me“. We come to the end of our own rope when we are burdened beyond what we can handle or what other people can handle for us. We hang at the end of the rope, and we have to let go and we are in a free fall. If God doesn’t show up we are in big trouble. We are out of alternatives. But he does show up in those times.

Paul experienced that God gave him a lot more than he can handle too, and he describes it like this in 2. Corinthians 1:8-9:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, which came to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead

burdened excessively, beyond our strength‘ Paul writes. I have been to that place. Many people have. Some have gone the road of bitterness when faced with sufferings, others have gone the path of brokenness and have encountered Christ there. But aren’t there Bible verses contradicting what I’m saying? No. There are verses talking about that we will not face temptations that are more than we can handle in the sense that we always, as God’s children, have a choice when faced with temptation (and remember temptation is not from God! He doesn’t tempt us!). There is a way out. We can choose to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8), say no to the temptation and walk away from it. Or we can choose to give into the temptation, and we get to experience death in our lives. The verse about God always providing a way out of temptation can be found in 1. Corinthians 10:13, and the fact that God doesn’t tempt anyone can be studied in James 1:13. But again, these verses don’t negate the fact that God’s plan for all of us is to bring us to a place of brokenness and surrender where we admit that we don’t have what it takes to live the life we want to live. Where we accept that we can’t do it without Christ doing it through us. It’s never about us getting strength from God to do our life. God wants to bring us to a place of death where we surrender to him and let him live his life through us. We are his unique expressions to the world, but it’s him who does it all. All I do is surrender and submit to him doing his will through my life.


So while Mother Teresa was a wise woman, she wasn’t right that God never gave her more than she could handle. And from so many of her other writings, I know that she often came to the end of herself and cried out to God to intervene. And he did. And he does. And he will for you and me today. God’s timing is always perfect. I often disagree with his timing, but that’s me wanting to be God and assuming that I know best. God knows best. God knows how to bring me into places, situations, relationships, circumstances where I’m in way over my head and where I come to the place of finally surrendering to him and throwing myself in his arms fully. He longs for that. And the truth is that I, as a child of God, also long for that. I’m just so often confused by the noise and distractions of my soul and body life that I don’t hear the Spirit’s voice in my spirit whispering: “give up, surrender to my love and you will experience the life you always wanted”. Thank God for the truth in this quote by C. S. Lewis:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world

I don’t like the megaphone anymore than anybody else does. But I’m thankful for the life that God has given me because he has given me much more than I can handle.

Blessings, Torben – who is very excited about his trip to Bulgaria and Ukraine these next few weeks!

6 Responses to “Was Mother Teresa right?”

  1. 1 Hanna R
    November 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot, thanks for sharing! Gud med dig!

  2. November 4, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Hey Hanna! Glad that my blog entry could help clarify your thoughts. Or at least I hope it helped bringing clarification 🙂

  3. 3 Kandice
    November 28, 2009 at 1:26 am

    How has God given you more than you can handle if you are still alive and still a follower?

  4. November 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Hey Kandice! That’s a good question! Thanks for asking! God has brought me through many situations where I have had to give up and throw myself 100% at his mercy and guidance. That’s where he longs for us to live. He longs for us to experience complete dependency on him, and we only experience that when we come to the end of our own strength. Anything I can do without involving God to lead and direct is done in my own strength, and does not carry God’s full blessing with it. So while it’s true, as you point out, that I’m still very much alive and still following Christ in my life, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been in situations, thank God (!), that have been “too much to handle” for me in my own strength/wisdom/insight. I love the passage from 2. Corinthians chapter 12 where Paul talks about the strength of weakness, and where he concludes: “when I am weak (in my own strength/resources/having too much to handle!) I am strong (because God’s strength can flow freely and unhindered through me and accomplish everything he wants to accomplish in me and through me!)”. Hope that helps clarify this wonderful truth that I’m trying to share. If you have any further questions about this, please keep asking! 🙂

    Blessings, Torben

  5. March 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    I referenced this post in a blog entry of my own at http://lynnsaw.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-heard-disparaging-remark.html. Thanks for reminding us that His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

  6. March 8, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Hey Lynn! I am glad that my little blog entry could be a God-reminder for you! Blessings, Torben

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