When Life’s Too Much: A Review of More Than You Can Handle

April 9, 2019
Title: More Than You Can Handle: When Life’s Overwhelming Pain Meets God’s Overcoming Grace
Author: Nate Pyle
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Date: March 5, 2019
Pages: 208 pages (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-0310343400

Platitudes are pat answers given to someone facing a difficult situation. Platitudes are trite, uninspiring, and frustrating, but we have all heard them. We have probably all said them, too, whether we thought about our words as platitudes or not. Platitudes can be things like “at least she is not suffering anymore,” or “there wasn’t a future with him anyway.” Most of the time, the person sharing the platitude is doing so to bring comfort, though it may be that they are most trying to comfort themselves in the face of a situation to which they have no idea how to respond.

The word “platitude” comes from a French word that means “dull” or “flat.” Platitudes may be dull, but they still have a way of cutting deeply. Intended to help heal, platitudes instead cause more pain.

Nate Pyle’s second book called More Than You Can Handle wrestles with the oft-recited platitude, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” With Scripture in one hand and difficult life experiences in the other, Pyle offers a fresh take on what it looks like to find God with us during seasons of profound pain and loss.

To begin, he digs into the scriptural origin of the expression. The idea behind “God won’t give you more than you can handle” comes from a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13. The verse says: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (NIV). This verse about temptation has somehow been taken, twisted, and applied to try and bring comfort to people who are going through tremendously difficult things. The problem: it is not really comforting, and it is not really biblical.

Throughout the pages of More Than You Can Handle, Pyle shares from his experiences as a pastor walking with people through difficult times like a terminal cancer diagnosis and of learning from the deep faith of those who had experienced tremendous loss in their lives. Pyle shares honestly about finding himself with a lack of words when sitting with people who were struggling. As a pastor, he expected himself to be able to speak words of comfort to those facing hardships, but he found himself instead sitting with people in the raw silence.

In a chapter on having enough faith to doubt, he writes this about faith: “But faith without doubt isn’t faith. It’s certainty. Faith is faith precisely because it isn’t certain. There’s mystery and not knowing and contradictions and uncertainty, all mixed with a deep hope in something we cannot see. It’s trusting in something we can’t verify. Unfortunately, faith has too often been replaced by certainty.”

As a need-to-know person, it is easy for me to chase after certainty as opposed to resting in the mystery of faith. Pyle calls that pursuit what it is: idolatry. He writes, “Certainty is an idol dressed up as an unshakeable faith.” Ultimately, it was this idolatry of certainty that pushed Job’s friends to blame him for his misfortune. And it is this idolatry of certainty that causes us to refuse to acknowledge our doubts. The trouble is, doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. Without doubt, faith would not be faith.

Beyond his experiences as a pastor, Nate Pyle shares vulnerably about his and his wife’s journey with infertility, pregnancy loss, and waiting to adopt. He plumbs the depths of overwhelming anger, sorrow, doubt, and even joy—all of which became more than he could handle at some point along the way. The book is not about finding a way to minimize the “too much-ness” of these moments in life, but about looking for the presence of God with us during these moments.

In More Than You Can Handle Nate Pyle extends his ministry of compassion and care beyond his own church to anyone who might have ever found life to be more than they could handle. Throughout each chapter, Nate seamlessly weaves together stories from Scripture, experiences that he has had in his own life, and the testimonies of the people he has ministered to. Using all of those examples, Pyle writes a book that wrestles honestly and faithfully with the challenge of believing in a good God when bad things happen.

As a pastor, this book has provided me with new insight into Scripture (especially the book of Job), and it has helped me reflect on the care that I give to people as I walk with them as their pastor. But, this book is not only for pastors. This book is for anyone who has ever found the experiences of life to be too much—whether they are too painful or overwhelmingly joyful. God did not promise that we would never be given more than we could handle, but God does promise to be with us during those too-much seasons. We may think that what we are after is the answer to why these things happen at all. But somehow, knowing we aren’t alone through it is what we need more.

About the Author
  • April Fiet is a mom of two school-age kids and a co-pastor alongside her husband, Jeff, at the First Presbyterian Church of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

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