Robin Roberts is one of my favorite broadcasters. She was such a standout basketball player that her university retired her jersey last year. Upon college graduation, she began her journalism career, working as a sportscaster with ESPN and eventually with ABC News. She became co-anchor of Good Morning America in 2005, and has been very public about her Christian faith over the years.
Yesterday she announced on air that she has been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). This disease of the blood and bone marrow is a complication from treatment she received in 2007 to defeat breast cancer. She has now begun chemotherapy in advance of a bone marrow transplant later this year. Her sister is an excellent match, which greatly improves her chances for a cure. “I’m going to beat this,” she told viewers. “My doctors say it and my faith says it to me.” In her blog post she states, “God only gives us what we can handle.”
I’m sure her statement was an axiom rather than a theological assertion. However, people so often say that God “gave” them their challenges or problems that it seems a conversation on this issue is in order. Many people point to disasters and disease and say: if God caused this, he’s too mean to be trusted; if he didn’t, he’s too weak to be relevant.
The fact is, the Bible tells us that God causes some calamities—Noah’s flood, the plagues in Egypt, and judgments in Revelation come to mind. But other problems originate with Satan, such as Job’s trials. And still others are the consequence of our misused freedom, such as Judas’ suicide. How do we know which is which?
In Scripture, whenever God brings judgment against a person or nation, he always warns them first. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) while building the Ark; Moses warned Pharaoh before the plagues; John wrote the Revelation to warn sinful nations of judgment to come. A good father would not punish his children without explaining why they were being disciplined. In the same way, God’s word says that “he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Are you facing challenges this morning? If so, ask the Spirit to show you if you are being disciplined, then confess anything he brings to your thoughts, claiming his forgiveness and grace (1 John 1:9). And whatever your trials, know that God’s strength is sufficient. “God only gives us what we can handle” is expressed biblically this way: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The One who keeps his promises is holding you in his hand now (John 10:29). Are you holding his?