So it’s been a while since I added to this series, but another phrase has come to mind that Christians need to stop saying. If you want to check out the other phrases I’ve written about so far check out Pray Harder, Just have faith, and It’s all part of God’s Plan.
I’ve heard it time and time again. When someone is going through a hard time or more often when they are trying to get something or achieve something I hear them quote Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. Even good ole Tim Tebow said it!
I know some of you are already on the defensive. You’re ready to ream me saying that it’s scripture and so it’s perfectly appropriate, and even biblical for someone to say. I have no disagreement that it is biblical, and in certain circumstances it is very much appropriate for someone to mention. . . just not all circumstances. And frankly probably not most of the circumstances that we use the phrase.
For one I think we say this because we are wanting or striving for something that is not something Jesus would desire. We want that new promotion so we say ‘God gives me strength’. We want a girlfriend or boyfriend so we say ‘I can do all things,’ as if singleness is this backbreaking burden to carry. This isn’t what this is talking about.
Furthermore, often I think when we quote this verse because we are going through a hard time, and we are expecting God to get us out of it. We say God will give me strength to get through it, with the expectation that it will end. But maybe it won’t. Would we be ok with that?
Let’s think for a moment about the context of where that verse comes from. Paul has been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ. In verses before Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering in need.”
So here is the situation. Paul is in prison. He is expressing how he know God will give him the strength in his situation and he can be content wherever God puts him. Furthermore, specifically for Paul, things are only going to get worse. Paul never gets out of prison after this, instead taken to Rome and eventually executed.
So here is the question. When you say God will give you strength to standing up in your circumstance are you content if that means things won’t change? What about if it’s only going to get worse? Are you really praying for God to give you strength in the situation or are you asking God to take away the situation?
It’s a challenge I know. I am in one of those places right now with some things in my life and I really want to pray that God just takes the situation away, not just give me strength in the middle of it. I don’t think it is even wrong for me to pray that God takes it away, and I do pray that he does. But I just have to remember that God doesn’t promise that. He promises he will help me stand in the midst of it not that he will take it away. I don’t know if my circumstances will change, maybe they won’t. But God will give me strength.