Kurt Vonnegut once opened a graduation speech with the words, “It isn’t often that a total pessimist is invited to speak in the springtime.” I worry about my own bent towards pessimism sometimes. I don’t really think of it as pessimistic, though, I consider myself a Christian Realist. And as much as I am concerned that sometimes my messages aren’t as uplifting as others, I am more concerned by the hollow and baseless promises that too many Christians cling to.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve sat next to grieving mothers, sat at deathbeds, been with people when their lives were suddenly and irreversibly plunged into darkness. I’ve never been tempted to offer them this promise. But it’s so ingrained in our thinking that on more than one occasion I’ve been with someone who has reached the end of their rope and had them plead with me, “I thought God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle. How much more does he think I can take?”
The realist comes out in me and wishes I could say, “God is more concerned about bringing grace to this world than about your comfort. When you signed up for this Christianity thing, you volunteered to be broken on the wheels of living if it will advance the gospel.”
Those probably wouldn’t be the most comforting words ever said, but they are among the most real I know.
Our attendance was super low the Sunday I preached this. We dipped down to about half of what we had the week before (there was a large family reunion in our church that day). Such is the lot with summer church attendance. Somehow everyone picked this Sunday to be out on vacation.
I preach better with a larger crowd. It was very hard to adapt to a semi-empty building that day. I think that came through in my delivery a bit. However, I was amazed at the number of listeners I had online that day. Normally I can count on a good 35-40 listens to one of my sermons in the week after I upload it. I had over thirty listens on Sunday alone.
However, in contrast, I think a lot of people read the title when I posted the link online (Facebook) and commented without ever listening to the message. Some of the responses I received seemed to indicate that they agreed with the title and the old adage, but didn’t give the sermon a listen.
I wonder now If I should have titled it differently. Maybe something like, “What if God gives you more than you can handle?” Or even “God WILL give you more than you can handle.” I wonder what the responses to those would have been like.