Throughout the world, Christians rejoice in the beloved scripture, “I can do all things throughwhich me.” It is a simple, but powerful reminder of the love of Jesus Christ and the strength that comes into our lives when we follow Him.
However, as we struggle through mortality, we may wonder if we can really do all things through Christ. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, did he truly mean we could do anything at all? If we fail, experience prolonged suffering or hardship, or continually sin, are we simply not doing enough to use the Atonement of Christ?
Because we all have such different experiences, there is no easy answer. Sometimes, we do need to square our shoulders and rely more on Christ. Sometimes, we have done all we can do and the rest is in the Lord’s hands. Whatever your experience is, these principles can help us understand this scripture a bit more.
The Power to Endure & Accept God’s Will
As with any scripture, it is important to look at the context. Paul writes to the saints in Philippi, a major city in ancient Greece and it is believed he writes while imprisoned. One of the key messages of Philippians indeed seems to be optimism and faith in Christ in the midst of adversity. Right before Paul asserts he can do all things through Christ, he writes:
I know both how to be, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
With this in mind, we can better understand two aspects of Paul’s testimony. It’s not just that he can do all things; he can submit himself to the will of God. When we are humble and trust in the greater plan God has for our lives, we gain a greater perspective. Just like Paul, we can learn how to accept God’s will, even if it involves suffering, without losing our testimony of Jesus Christ.
Second, once we have this testimony, we are able to endure well. We face challenges with understanding and even with some optimism. Sometimes, this means we have to take a very long view and trust that when God requires us to wait until eternity for answers and resolution, it is for a more glorious purpose.
Focus on Christ
President Russell M. Nelson elaborated on these principles when he taught:
When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.
Instead of focusing on a result, such as a problem suddenly being solved or pain suddenly being healed, focus on Jesus Christ. If we put our faith in the outcome, we will surely find ourselves disappointed. Too often we fall into perfectionist tendencies and put more work on our own shoulders, rather than focusing on the grace of Christ.
For example, we may feel like we have prayed and prayed about an important question in our lives. However, when an answer does not come, we may begin to think we have failed in some way. We pray harder, read more diligently, and push ourselves harder than is needful. While we always need to be mindful of the effort and love we’re giving to God, it is better to focus on building a relationship with Christ than trying to scale the balances in our favor with obedience.
Believe in Yourself
Finally, as we struggle to know if we can do all things through Christ, batteling perfectionism, doubt, and the natural consequences of a fallen world, it is good to have faith in yourself. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said:
Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourselves. You are doing better than you think you are.
Christ doesn’t just want to fix all of your problems, swooping in and saving you each time you need it (though He can offer such miracles according to His will). Instead, He is much more invested in strengthening you and helping you become more like He is. This is a person able to bear pain with iron-clad faith and hope. Believe Christ loves you and believes in your capabilities. Believe you can keep going and use your agency to make eternally important choices. Believe in your covenants. Believe Christ isn’t waiting to tear you down, but build you up.
As we submit ourselves to God’s will, endure well, focus on Christ, and believe in ourselves, we will find we can do so much more than we ever imagined.
When have you found strength through Christ to do hard things?