Cliche: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
Cliche of the Day: God never gives you more than you can handle.
Is that true? And is God even responsible for our adversity?
A Thoughtful Response
Let’s start with the assumption that God bears full responsibility for everything that happens to us on the earth plane. He (she/it?) is the great oppressor in the sky. A convenient scapegoat for all that goes wrong.
I personally can’t subscribe to the concept that God micromanages all the minute details of my life, tightening the screws as much as possible, but not too much, just to the breaking point where he figures I can just about handle it. Who is this divine being who doles out suffering in doable doses? What kind of sadistic creep does that? If God is love, this is not that.
Many portray God as if he’s a CEO of the huge corporation called Earth where he sits in his office in the sky, some place called heaven, somewhere above the last floor of the Earth skyscraper where the elevator doesn’t go so you can never actually see him or get an appointment. Sometimes he speaks through middle management or sends messages directly to your inbox, but his executive plans and thought processes remain a mystery. Whether you adhere to the office manual or choose to wing it, no one can agree on what exactly corporate policy is. They can’t even agree on which manual is in effect. Some enjoy the abundance of the corporate setting while others slave like low-level employees in a basement sweat shop for little return. Co-workers and management smile and say, “Don’t worry. Just stay positive. The CEO would never give us more than we can handle,” as the sweat drips off their collective foreheads.
It’s human nature to blameshift. It’s not to say we brought all things upon ourselves but the whys don’t really matter so much as what we do from here. It’s the “now whats” that matter. If we put God on the hook for our problems, we can wait passively for answers. We acquiesce. Surely it’s all for good, right?
Or we get angry, shaking our fist toward the heavens as we stew in our bad fortune. This scenario is as old as the Book of Job. And poor old Job. Even his wife withdrew her support. She pretty much told him to eat shit and die.
During chemo, I was part of an online support group for women starting chemo roughly the same time. At the beginning, we would buoy ourselves by saying, “We can do this. It’s doable!” By the end of chemo, we were so worn out from doing it that we hoped to never do it again.
Adversity is sometimes ladled to overflowing on many people’s plates and it’s far more than they can handle. Proof is in the suicide rate, the nervous breakdowns, the number of people on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, drug and alcohol abuse, even theft and violence. People implode and explode. They over-work, over-eat, over-shop, and any number of things people do overly and compulsively to mask pain.
When I went through divorce and cancer, my mother would say, “Eileen, when you’re flat on your back, be glad because there’s only one way to go from there and that’s up.” Mom’s words encouraged me until I realized one day it wasn’t necessarily true. Things can always get worse or just not better. For instance, when you’re lying flat on your back, someone could push you over and now you’re face down in the dirt. Then a dog lifts its leg on you. Then a drunk trips over you and vomits in your space, then files a lawsuit against you for personal injuries. Or none of this happens, but you’ve broken your leg and need help to get up, but help isn’t offered — just a bunch of noise that sounds like “Just be positive!” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” And all the time you’re thinking: Are we looking up yet? But don’t worry. If it never gets better, someday you’ll die and in that way, you’ll ultimately get your “comeuppance.”
Many people who go through cancer have a strong support network. They deal with cancer, which is plenty in and of itself. Others who rely mostly upon themselves have the entire foundation of their lives crumble when their support — their own selves — becomes weakened. The collateral effects can last for some time, even years.
I love this quote from Evan Handler’s book, which I quoted before when I reviewed his autobiography, Time on Fire:
I’ve heard it said that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve also heard it said that whatever doesn’t kill you fucks you up for a really long time, and it’s a miracle if you ever get it back together again.
My life since cancer has been one of scrapping for survival of one kind or another. I could be the poster child of proof that negativity and stress don’t kill you. Seriously, I don’t even know why I’m still alive. I’ve had a lot of change and a lot of challenge while my body was healing, and it’s not over yet. I often feel as though I’ve been selected to be a tribute in the Hunger Games. Metaphorically of course. I just wish the game was over, that I’d win, and could enjoy those things I used to take for granted.
At the same time, I’ve developed a newfound respect for myself. I’m hardly a formidable presence, but my resilience astounds me. Maybe it’s true I haven’t been given more than I can handle, even if it sometimes feels that way. Perhaps I’ve narrowed down the problem right there — I handle it. Trust me, if I thought it would work, I’d climb in bed, stare vacantly at the wall and let my drool spill freely from the corner of my lips. I’d remain like that for days. If God would let me know how long I had to stay in that position before I was officially deemed not handling it, maybe we could strike a deal. I’ll call his personal assistant for an appointment. With a little luck, they’ll squeeze me in.