Have you ever been the recipient of well-meaning but simplistic advice? A common cliché you may have heard is “God will not give us more than we can bear.” When someone offered this at a funeral, I couldn’t help myself and replied, “I like what Mother Teresa said: I know God will never give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
I have been hearing about a lot of loss recently. A number of people in my circle of relationships have been impacted by unexpected deaths. I have been impacted by unexpected deaths. In response, I have been hearing, and saying, the kind Quaker promise: “I will be holding you in the Light.” We all mean something different when we say this. For some of us, this means we will be holding the person or situation up in intercessory prayer. For others, it means we will be thinking lovingly about them and carrying them in our hearts. The active language of “holding” suggests an ongoing responsibility and responsiveness. We are not simply offering a passing prayer or well-wish. We are carrying the concern with us as we go about our lives–praying, yes, but also being open to how we are called to respond in word or deed.
As Friends, we are called to carry a lot. Quaker leaders are expected to “hold” many things in the Light. Sometimes, it tests our limits. Sometimes, we wonder if God has indeed given us more than we can bear.
But recall Thomas Kelly’s words: “But in our love for people are we excitedly hurried, sweeping all people and tasks into our loving concern? No, that is God’s function. But God, working within us, portions out God’s vast concern into bundles, and lays on each of us our portion. These become our tasks.”
Kelly reminds us that we are only responsible for what God has truly laid on us to carry, for our particular “bundle.” I don’t think God is responsible for death and loss, but God does wisely invite us only to carry, emotionally and practically, a personalized portion. Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Hold your people in the Light. But remember, we hold each other in the Light. And God holds us in grace.
In a roundabout way, I agree that God will not give us more than we can handle. But I would add: …more than we can handle, in partnership with God and in community with others.
What are you carrying, or “holding” in the Light? Is there anything or anyone that God, or the Light, is inviting you to lay down? How can you share the burden with God and with close Friends in your life?
Remember Christ’s promise in Matthew: “Take my yoke upon you and…you WILL find rest for your souls.”