Monday, October 17, 2016

All Things

Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It's one of our favorite verses to quote at each other or to plaster on T-shirts and bumper stickers or to sign at the bottom of emails or memos. This is only more true when at hand is something that will require an extraordinary feat of strength - a cancer diagnosis, a serious injury, a difficult relationship, a major life change (a move, perhaps). Or even just something we're scared of - like skiing for the first time or bungee jumping or killing that giant spider in the bathroom. It seems that in moments where we're bound to feel our weakness, we call on Christ's strength.

But the truth is that most of us are still doing only what we can do.

We're doing the things we're sure of. We're attempting the things we know we'll complete. We're stepping into the shelter and out of the storm. We're settling into our comfortable lives, doing only some things because that's all we're capable of. Doing nothing which hangs uncertain.

And then we dare continue to say, "I can do all things through Christ."

Here's the question, though: if I can do all things through Christ, but I only attempt the things that I'm sure I can do myself, then have I done anything at all through Him? It's why, so often, my Jesus seems empty.

He seems empty to me because on some level, I realize that I don't even need Him. Not to do the things I'm actually doing. I'm handling life just fine on my own. It means I don't always get to do all the things I want, but I don't have to risk failure by trying something that's bigger than me. I may never stand, but at least I will never fall. And then my life feels full and happy because I'm super-successful all the time, but it feels empty, too, because it's not a challenge. I don't ask myself to do anything big.

And my Jesus is empty to those around me, too, because they see it even more easily than I do. Nothing I'm doing actually requires Him at all. Nothing I dare to take on takes an extra measure of strength. I claim the power of my Jesus, but I don't use it. And it leaves the world wondering if my Jesus is powerful at all.

Or if He is even my Jesus.

Yet I continue to say that I can do all things through Him. I boldly proclaim it, but my voice betrays me. Because my voice is weary. It's tired.

It's tired from doing all the things that I can do, from proving that I can do them. It's weary from working so hard and getting almost nowhere that seems important. It's exhausted from pretending that my God is my strength.

Because the truth is that when I say I can do all things through Him, I really just put a lot of pressure on myself not to fail. If I fail, then what does the world think? That my God can't do it. Even though I proclaimed that He can. So I push myself harder. I work myself harder. I run myself like a dog and burn the candle at both ends and thoroughly, completely drain myself for the sake of making my God look good. And what does it get us?


Nobody is foolish enough to think that God had anything to do with it.

Again, the world sees right through me. They see me doing only what I can do, pushing myself harder to make it look like God is able. But they know that I haven't let God do anything. I haven't let Him lift a finger. I haven't asked, haven't hoped, haven't expected anything from my God. I say I'm giving Him the glory for it all, but I'm really just giving Him the credit. There's nothing glorious about this.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It's a beautiful verse. But if we're only ever doing the things we're capable of anyway and the weariness in our voices betrays our effort, then we ought to stop decorating our lives with Philippians 4:13. It was never meant to be our motto; it was meant to be our prayer. 

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