Head First: Chicken Poop for the Soul

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chicken Poop for the Soul

Whoever said, "God never gives you a heavier load than you can carry." is a freaking idiot.

I was just online with a friend who's feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. As he shared very briefly, I began to feel some of his heartache in my own chest (is that what Paul meant about bearing each other's burdens?). I mean, I could literally feel the emotions he described. I wanted to tell him that, but I couldn't think of a way to say it that didn't sound like some sappy fake crap. "God is in control." might be true, but it sounds so glib. All I could really say was, "I'm praying." Even that didn't sound sufficient, except I meant it.

If God never gives me more than I can handle, then what does it mean when I fall down? More guilt? More "If only I had tried harder?" If God never gives me more than I can handle, then what implications does that have for my ability to please Him--to carry my own weight, as it were?

I can't decide how this jibes with scripture, but sometimes I think God allows us to be crushed by the burdens of this life. I know that I've been broken on the rocks of circumstances I thought I was supposed to control. It seems to me that the only way God can get some of us to "cast our cares upon Him," is to make those cares so completely unconquerable that we have no choice. And He must find it easier to work with broken people than those who think they have some strength left.


ninjanun said...

Each of us is to carry out own load, but we are to bear each other's burdens. A load is what is normally expected of us (our own responsibilities, and so forth) but a burden, as you pointed out, is beyond our ability to deal with on our own. When one falls, we help each other up. And of course, Jesus said come to Him and He'll help us.

(hope this didn't sound glib; I just wanted to point out what I had recently learned about the difference between loads and burdens). It would be interesting to hash out what Jesus meant, then, when he said, "Come to me all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light..."

jeff said...

Whoever said, "God never gives you a heavier load than you can carry." is a freaking idiot.

You're right, since this is mostly quoted as scripture, and is ultimately found nowhere in the text of the Bible. Here's the closest scripture I can find:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13 NASB)

No where in this scripture does it say that God is responsible for difficulty in our lives. And he's certainly not responsible for temptation is he? (see James 1:13) In fact, all I see is that God is faithful... whether we can see it or not, He is faithful. For me, that's as real as it gets!!

Remember in John 10 when jesus talked about the thief coming to "steal, kill & destroy"? Then He talked about why he came- to give life more abundantly...

I think sometimes these things are simply attacks of the enemy... reminds me of when Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NASB)

Coourage wouldn't be courage & faith wouldn't be faith if there were nothing at stake...

Still sucks having to go through it, though...

Kc said...

Romans 5:3,5 helps me in those times to at least find some reason to hope. Your last paragraph remined me again of Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

I have those empathy pains to. More empty sounding words but true, I'll pray for you all.

Herobill said...

You sound like a good brother to your friend. Well said, Dorsey.

Zeke said...

Dorse rocks the hizzy.

Here's some verses for you all to ponder as well:

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.

My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;

on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.
-Job 16:19-21

Aimee said...

wow. i just shared a very similar thing in my own blog yesterday, as a friend of mine also called to tell me some heart-crushing news. and he said the exact same thing about people who say "God won't give you more than you can handle", only "idiots" was far too nice of a way to put it for him! ;-)

when i went through cancer treatment i heard this sort of thinking all the time. and along with that also comes the "rebuke the devil" folks who believed if i had enough faith, prayed enough, i would be healed of cancer. ha ha. ha ha ha.

for the life of me i can't understand why some people arrive at the foot of the cross and then completely forget that human beings bleed.

i mean, we all go through despair. we all question. we all worry. we all cry. we all come to a place of brokeness. and the hope is not that He will heal us, that He will shelter us from brokeness, that only blessings come upon us, but that He is faithful to complete the work. so a better response, a more appropriate encouragement, in my experience, would be to remind one another that "all things work for good for those who love Him". Joseph, Job, David- there are many examples of this in effect. and someone going through the hard time may say, "well, it doesn't feel like it". but isn't that exactly what faith is? believing even when it doesn't feel like there's substantial evidence?

Steve said...

Some statements from your post:

"God is in control." might be true....

Are we really sure God is in control? I am not convinced, because I think to hold that theological view is scary for the implications it holds at each end of the pain/suffering spectrum.

...sometimes I think God allows us to be crushed by the burdens of this life....

I don't think God allows anything. I simply don't view God working in my life this way. It gives us an odd comfort to think that God allows pain for some reason... when I think he has nothing whatsoever to do with the pain. Him allowing pain/suffering implies so many things that contradict the nature of God.

And He must find it easier to work with broken people than those who think they have some strength left.

This is such a true statement.... our lives must be broken. We must respond to the events of pain in our lives and ask God, "What would you want me to learn, change or do as a result of this painful situation."

dorsey said...

You think that God being in control has scary implications? I find it far more terrifying to think that He's built something that's gotten too big for Him to handle. Are you saying that His eye is on the sparrow, but only as an observer? And that doesn't scare the hell out of you?

If God is not in control, and if God doesn't have the power to allow or disallow, then how can the statement about God working with broken people have any merit at all? I think it's a mistake to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't.

Aimee said...

i am so with you dorsey!

*raises hand*

ummm, reformed believer here. and i find great comfort in knowing that God is in control.

jeff said...

I think it's a mistake to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't.

I heard a story once. It goes something like this:

In high school, there was a certain teacher who didn't believe in God. one day in class, she ridiculed any student who was so naive as to believe in an eternal creator.

Upset and offended by her remarks, a young girl, we'll call her 'Susie', stood up to let her opposing view be heard.

The teacher, now excited that a student had taken the bait, openly challenged the girl to prove her God existed. The teacher said, "If your God truly exists, pray to Him, asking Him to supernaturally move this book from my desk to yours!"

The girl bowed her head, praying for wisdom. Finally, she loudly prayed, "Father, I pray that you would move this book from the teacher's desk to mine. In jesus' name, amen."

With that, she purposefully walked to the teacher's desk, picked up the book, carried it across the room and gently placed it on her own desk.

The teacher exclaimed, "Ha! I knew your God couldn't do it!"

Susie replied, "What do you mean? God answered my prayer. He moved the book, just as I requested... and He used me to do it."

I think sometimes, we expect God to do things that he has appointed, expected, & enabled us to do.

Could it be that God's intervention is conditioned on the fact that the people He may have in mind as the vehicle for that intervention are simply not listening to, or obeying His voice?

That's not God's fault, is it?

nathaniel adam king said...

I think the problem comes not when we recognize that God does not give us more than we can bear (which I really do believe is a Scriptural thought), but rather when we truly do not know how much it is that we can bear.

Often times we are given to trials and temptations of which we do not think we can handle, and therefore we do not try. We succumb to these temptations simply because we believe them to be greater than ourselves.

But if we realize that God does not allow anything upon us that is more difficult than we can bear, we will view these tempations and trials as passeable.

Steve said...

I think it's a mistake to think that just because God doesn't intervene, that He can't.

I never said he can't. And I believe he has intervened. I just don't believe that is how he "normally" chooses to operate.

dorsey said...

Then maybe I misunderstood what you were saying when you said that you aren't convinced that God is in control, and that such a thought has frightening implications.

Of course He doesn't normally choose to intervene. That's what makes trying to comfort my friend so freaking awkward—that I can make such nonchalant proclamations with the full expectation that nothing will happen, and still somehow be credible.

I think that's why relationship is so critical to living out the gospel. It's easy to pat you on the back and tell you "Everything's going to work out." and walk away. I believe grace calls me to feel your pain and weep alongside. Take note that in both instances, the end result is likely the same. The difference is in the heart to heart contact which penetrates both our spirits, and makes a difference—if not in the circumstance—then in the capacity to deal with it. I consider such contact a manifestation of Christ's presence.

Kc said...

I think that manifestation of His love in us is how the world knows we are His.

Steve said...


But I stand by what I said earlier that I believe thinking that God is in control, that he daily intervenes in our lives to control our circumstances is dangerous.

I don't believe he sends circumstances into my life to teach me things.... it just seems to be myopic to view life this way.

It is my belief that things happen to us - that life happens around us in this fallen world. And in our relationship with God we enter into an agreement with him to gain understanding on how we are to respond in the midst of lifes circumstances and how those situations can shape us to conform to his image and character.

He lives his life through me and we partner together to navigate the world in which we live. I don't expect that God will do anything for me, but I expect that God will give me the strength to face any of lifes circumstances and situations.

Hope I said this right...

dorsey said...

Yes, I think you said it right. By and large, we agree, but I think you may have inferred more than I meant to imply when you said,

"...thinking that God is in control, that he daily intervenes in our lives to control our circumstances... "

I don't think of those as the same thing. I DO believe that God is in control. I DO NOT believe that He is some cosmic puppetmaster (although He reserves the right to pull a string when it suits Him).

Let me see if I can clarify. I don't think that God is in the habit of sending bad stuff my way to teach me this lesson or that. I agree with you and the bumper sticker, sh*t happens. But I also believe that the nature of God's universe allows a rose to grow out of that manure pile (Rom. 8:28).

Maybe a clearer way to say it is that God is in control, but not controlling. Does that work?

I was recently reflecting with a friend about all the crap that's happened with me in the last year. I don't think God orchestrated it, but if it hadn't happened, it's very likely that I would have never found the path I'm on now. I'd likely never have met you and Josh, or Zeke, Nun, KC, Erik, EddieO, Brandon, or any of the people who have had a part in shifting my paradigm of late. I'm truly grateful for that. And who else could I be grateful to but God? It seems cheap to give the glory to chance. Whatever the truth is, I'm grateful to God for all you guys.


Herobill said...

God is bigger, stronger and more powerful than anything. I never spent two minutes trying to figure out things like "allowed" or caused" or categories that seem to explain what events he did or did not "will" into being.

This whole world is fallen. But God is primarily interested in another realm. A higher realm. He always works out whatever will further His purpose. His world, his right.

God once said to satan, have you considered my servant Job? So satan took the dare and hurt Job deeply. Job's three friends were wise enough at first to sit silently and mourn with him in the dirt for nine days. (Which reminds me of what Dorsey shared in his actual post.) But then they came in with their theories and their advice...

But in the end God said nothing to Job about "why" those horrible things happened. God said, "who are they? who are you? I am God and you are not." (And He said some other great things too!)

But in the end, Job got to see and hear God! And Job was blameless.

Who knows when/why/what ever happens on this ball of mud?

God is God. I'm not. And I hope I have the wisdom to sit in the dirt and mourn with people without letting my brain kick in to "comfort them" with my "false wisdom".

I sure hope that last statement doesn't describe this, my very own comment! Sigh. Who knows how our words and we affect each other? But still, God is God, and He will be faithful to His Purpose.

Praise your name, Lord, again!

jeff said...

Dorsey said:
I can make such nonchalant proclamations with the full expectation that nothing will happen, and still somehow be credible.

(Okay, I don't know the situation you speak of, and my comments are nonchalant & hopefully credible in themselves, but...)
In comforting someone else, is it even necessary to say anything at all. Sometimes just being there is enough, isn't it?

dorsey said...

Well, that's sort of what I meant when I said that I believe grace calls me to feel your pain and weep alongside.

Believe me, I would have much preferred to put my arm around my friend and listen. But this particular instance occurred across a few thousand miles, through email and instant messaging, rendering the dynamic of "just being there" a little impractical.

JimmyBob said...

In the end, I hope that comfort comes from a loving heart. And if our friends understand that, then they can put up with our moronic words and see through to our heart. Who really has the right words to say all the time anyway? I'm sure Jesus' own words weren't that comforting to some. Dorse, your bud will love you anyway. And I do to!

JimmyBob said...

One other thought...perhaps everthing we go through in life is "bearable." Otherwise we might all die literally. And at least all of us who are talking about this subject right now are alive and have been able to bear every hardship in life so far. The only illustration I can find as of late is the character Padme in Revenge of the Sith. She died of a broken heart. The medical droid said she was perfectly healthy but lost the will to live. Losing Anakin to the dark side was too much for her to bear? Or was it the will of the Force that she die? Didn't Anakin have bad dreams about it in advance? Yoda, a good answer for this, he might have.

dorsey said...

Man, I miss you, jimmybob. For my own sake, I wish you were still here, but for your sake, I'm glad you're not.

JimmyBob said...

Oh, that bad huh... Just great! I hope I don't have to comfort you because I'll probably screw it up royally. Nahh. Love is not easily offended.

I miss you too. But I don't have to be there to be here, if you know what I mean. I was told that in the ministry you have to break all ties with people in the former church. I was even lectured by a minister once on the subject. He told me how his family once took in a teenage boy for awhile like a son, but when they left that place of ministry they cut off all communication with the boy because it was the "right thing to do." I didn't say it at the time out of respect for the minister, but I thought to myself, "That was a cold thing to do." I still feel that way. I never heard of Jesus or Paul breaking off good relationships, and they travelled extensively. You know what it is don't you? Stupid ministerial politics! They're too worried about loyalties and control over the people rather than loving the people. And the kicker is that you know they don't follow their own rules.

Anywho, I'm "here" for you as a brother, even though I'm not there.

Kc said...

Okay I'm a JimmyBob fan.

earth from eic said...

God always has the uncanny knack of getting us to understand that we need to trust Him in the midst of our cirucmstances, and throughout every aspect of our life. I am reminded of Romans 8, which tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and I'm really beginning to believe that I am included in the nothing part. Seems that God has to keep breaking us until we stop trying to pick up the pieces and let Him mold us. After all, He is the potter.

dufflehead said...

dorsey (this is probably going to get missed as i don't get around to many blogs),
dude thanks for the listen.

to continue the discussion going on here . . .
i really really really really really hope no one gets offended at this next statement;
the best support is by trying to relate to the person. if you can't relate, the best thing is to be honest that you can't relate, but express encouragement and support. for me, the worst thing you can do is quote scripture. maybe that's just me, though.

the best illustration i can give of this last bit is the difference between getting a present that was made by the giver and getting a present that was bought by the giver.

dorsey said...

Pete, I think you are right on. One of the biggest problems that people have with Christians is that they don't seem altogether genuine.

Several years ago, a friend of mine lost his daughter to a heroin overdose following years of absolute torment and heartache. I actually heard people try to comfort this guy with their shallow platitudes and their soundbite theology. I wanted to scream myself. I can only imagine how he felt. I remember my own struggle for words and I must confess, all those neat little chicken soup (poop) comments came through my mind as well. I choked them back and said, "I can't imagine your pain. All I can say is that I love you." He nodded as he put his hand on my shoulder.

This guy was no idiot. He knew full well that there were no words that would make him feel better. But it gave him strength to know that people cared. And from that perspective, he wasn't even offended by the idiotic "comforting" of those who just didn't know what to say, but felt like they had to offer something.

Kc said...

Guys I’ve never really taken those comments as being intended to comfort anyone. I see it as the way people try to explain how they cope with what they don’t understand and they’re only sharing. It’s like you said, the comfort is in the loving care but I see the comments as more of an explanation of why your tragedy doesn’t end my life or leave me hopeless. The fact that they are addressed to the person who is suffering the loss only illustrates how we project ourselves onto other people. I’m sure there are those who really believe they have the answers and I know some are even callus but by and large I think most people are only explaining how they are able to go on in spite of the loss.

We all tend to deal with grief in pretty much the same way but quite often we’re at different stages in the process. The closer we are to the loss the more time we need to get through the process. Eventually everyone reaches the point where they try to understand but usually those with a greater loss need more time accepting and dealing with it.

I do think that realizing this will help us to concentrate more on the loving care and let our desire to explain or understand take a back seat to their need.

Caro said...

Just got to this blog late, but here goes. I've been reading some Luther (Martin) and find his "Theology of the Cross" seems to address this matter to some degree. He states, and I concur, that we must finally realize that we bring/have/are nothing of worth as WE look at things. Only then can we go to the foot of the cross and gain a slight insight into the absolute love of God. If we believe that we can, in some manner/fashion, offer anything of worth to God, we diminish Him and fail to see ourselves as we are.
To myself and others who have no answer for suffering, let me suggest that it is thiat suffering which can bring us to the cross and there we catch a bit of HIs suffering. Maybe then we become aware of the infinite magnitude of Grace, tho' we cannot measure it. Suffering is NOT a consequence of sin, lack of faith, unrepented evil thoughts, etc. ad nauseum! It is the natural consequence of the acts of Man who has lost all and may or may not understand the loss.
May our suffering drive us to the cross so we can understand and "enter into the fellowship of His suffering."
As for my response to the suffering of my bro/sis in the Lord, I can only offer my heart which has been wounded by YOUR pain; I strive to enter into His, I CAN enter into yours.
God, excuse this feeble tongue-it is driven by a like mind.