Paul’s words can work as a breath prayer: (inhale) I can do all things (exhale) through Christ who strengthens me.
Are any of these books on your bookshelf?”
“What to Expect When You Are Expecting”
“Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care”
“Barron’s Test Prep and College Rankings”
“What Color is Your Parachute?”
“The Idiot’s Guide to Retirement”
We turn to books like these to lead us through difficult stages of life. Philippians 4:13 provides ten words that will save you from buying these and hundreds of other ‘self-help’ books: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These ten words lead us through every single developmental stage.
I -- I describes the first glimpse of a new being with a unique identity – that miraculous life knit together in the mother’s womb.
I can -- can is the toddler’s first steps, first words, first tumbles.
I can do -- do is all of the things we celebrate about the youth in our churches -- creative, dramatic, athletic, faithful, smart, leaders.
I can do all -- all reminds us of our idealistic young adult days. All things were possible. A world wide open. No constraints. A future to live into with hope, not cynicism.
I can do all things -- things takes us to those moments when life becomes routine. Things are marked by the weekly trash take-out. Things can fill the calendar, but not always the heart and soul.
I can do all things through -- through reminds us of the resilience by which we get through the tough parts of life, thanks to friends and the faith community and the formation of prayer.
I can do all things through Christ -- Christ gives us the strength that we are never alone. Christ: companion, savior, redeemer, friend, nourisher, healer and teacher who is with us to the very end.
I can do all things through Christ who -- Of course there are moments when we question who is this Christ? Who is this resurrected one who calls me by name? Who is he, and who is he calling me to be?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens -- strengthens, allows us to look back on a life’s journey and see the saving grace of Christ along the way who brought strength to sustain all things. This is the down in your bones faith – deeply engrained even in the strain of circumstance.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The ten words come full circle, back to me. Our identity is made complete from womb to grave by the presence of Christ who continually saves. This is not a journey culminating in ‘me’ (though it does include me). This journey is about Christ who calls us into our very best selves for the service of the gospel.
We might see these words as a prayer. Perhaps they are a breath prayer: (inhale) I can do all things (exhale) through Christ who strengthens me. Perhaps they are a verse to build on these words one by one -- until you find the place where you find yourself that day. For example, you might start by saying one word at a time: I, can, do, all, things . . . Until you find the word that resonates where you are today. Things? Meetings. Hospital visits. Soccer practice carpool. Dishes. Phone calls. Each of these invite a prayer for strength in purpose. Perhaps the prayer visualizes the cross: Horizontal line -- I can do all things (along the horizontal interactions of my day) Vertical line -- through Christ who strengthens me (entering my heart from his heavenly throne). At the intersection of those two lines crossing is the place where God is at work in your life today.
May these words guide you through every age and stage of life. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Lisa Nichols Hickman, a Gulf Coast native, is a Presbyterian pastor and writer. She serves at New Wilmington Presbyterian Church in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.