I can do all things… I bet you can finish that sentence can’t you? It’s a mantra at the gym, before a big exam or when you are striving to reach some really spectacular goals.
Those applications aren’t necessarily wrong, but when you isolate this verse from its context it actually loses it’s most powerful application.
Have you ever read the sentence before it?
I know both how to be abased, 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. Phil. 4:12 KJV
I learned this verse in my old King James days. I think it left my mind for decades and came back to me when I was sitting in the PICU with my baby this summer.
I had just left the lush, tropical island of Dominica where we were feasted on island fruit, swam in the mountain river and woke to the peaks to the right and the ocean to the left. We enjoyed good company and spent much time in the Word. It was the definition of abounding.
Then a day later, I sat in a frigid Puerto Rican hospital room, alone, without my luggage, without any Spanish, without my husband, without my other children, my church or even a towel to dry off with. In stead of greeting Dominicans with her smile, my baby was unconscious and not breathing on her own.
When we got moved to the step down unit we were in a ward with other moms and children. The singular bathroom was old and moldy and the toilet was tiny. The funny thing was, I was OK. I mean their were some uncomfortable moments. The chair I slept in was no king sized pillow top. The community shower grossed me out. And my roommate sang an incredible amount of Latin pop songs. But I was OK.
I asked myself that in the middle of all of it, “How are you OK with this?”
I realized finally learned how to be abased. I learned how to go without. I learned how to be desperate, lonely, tired and sore. I didn’t learn through some super ability of my own. No, I learned it from the source of strength himself, Jesus Christ, who mastered being abased in his flesh.
This verse is more than a pep talk or motivational cheer. This verse is the lifeblood of surviving suffering and doing it with grace.
I know both how to be abased, 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. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.