I have heard some version of this many times in the last six months. On its surface, it is simply a vote of confidence- a way to cheer on someone who's going down a tough path. But what does it really mean? And where does the concept come from?
Although it references God, it doesn't come from Scripture. I imagine people might be thinking of 1 Corinthians 10:13, but that verse says that God won't allow us to "be tempted" beyond what we're able to bear, not that He won't allow us to experience circumstances that are beyond our ability to handle.
In fact, Scripture is replete with examples of individuals whose burden was too heavy, whose road was too hard. Job lost everything, except his nagging wife and self-righteous friends. Joseph was repeatedly crushed and falsely accused and forgotten. Stephen was stoned to death. Mary watched her son be put to death. These people had more than they could humanly handle.
God is not sitting up in heaven, adding one thing at a time to our burden of life, seeing how much we can "handle" before we collapse under the load. He is walking beside us, waiting for us to turn to Him. He values not our ability to walk in our own strength, but our humility when we turn to Him and let Him carry the load for us. He regularly allows things to happen in this sinful, fallen world that force us to give up. As long as "giving up" means that we're done doing things our way, trusting in our own abilities, then we've become something that the Lord can use.
Although we humans admire each other's strength, God doesn't. He's wholly unimpressed by our ability to "handle" things. Even His weakness is stronger than our strength. (1 Corinthians 10:25) And He goes so far as to say that those who depend on their own strength are "cursed"! (Jeremiah 17:5) Why such a harsh judgment? Because when we rely on ourselves, our hearts "depart from the Lord."
He values our relationship with Him so highly that He does what it takes to make us remember that we can't handle it. We have to depend on Him. His strength is the only thing that sustains us.
The Apostle Paul was the ultimate "I've got this" guy. His life was under control. He was highly educated, from a good family. His path was marked out and he was handling it. Even after his conversion, he apparently still struggled with self-sufficiency. Woe to the people who showed weakness (think of poor, timid Mark) when Paul was on a mission!
So, as God used all of Paul's confidence and determination to change the entire course of human history, He also took steps to remind Paul that he wasn't quite the indomitable force he might have envisioned himself to be. God actually gave Paul a "thorn in the side." We don't really know what this thorn was, this "messenger of Satan" that tormented him. It might have been physical or mental, but whatever it was, it kept him humble. It kept him from being "exalted above measure."
And, though Paul asked three times to be released from this suffering, God refused. Because the Lord needed weakness to show His strength. Because Paul needed to remember- and we need to learn- that man was not created to "handle it" alone.
"And He said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'
Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
1 Corinthians 12:9