“I can do all things.” Oh, really?

Children are being taught that they can do whatever they put their minds to, in school, children’s books, and in endlessly nauseating Disney movies. And bookstores are full of self-help books by patronizing gurus telling us, “I did it; so can you.”

It was a relief for me some time back, then, to discover that I can’t do whatever I put my mind to, because God made us humans subject to futility and frustration (Romans 8:20), so that even at our best we amount to nothing more than broken pots (2 Corinthians 4:7).

And the reason God did this to us was to get us to include him in our lives. Why? Because we’ve proved beyond doubt in our human history that we cannot live the life he designed for us on our own. So he continues to let us suffer from war, disease, famine, pollution and a host of other unsolvable problems, to convince us we cannot do whatever we put our minds to. And children soon discover that all their great plans and dreams aren’t guaranteed to always work either, because their resolve weakens under pressure, accidents happen, or people conspire against them – including their own parents.

But once we’ve accepted that we’re limited and life isn’t fair, what do we do then? Well, it’s lift the lid on our broken pot, pop our heads out, and ask God to help us, which he promises to do, and in so many ways that eventually we can say as Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But Paul didn’t come to that understanding easily. For much of his life he’d depended on the power of his own mind and will, just like children are being taught to do today. But to his horror he also experienced his mind and will conspiring against him to make him do the very opposite of what he wanted to do. It was hugely frustrating. But in his frustration he cried out to God for help and made the most amazing discovery, that to make things happen “the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

In other words, it’s a totally false idea that we humans can do whatever we put our minds to, because it’s only GOD who can do that. Only he can do whatever he puts his mind to. But God’s quite willing to share the power of his mind with us, and that’s what a child needs to hear, that yes he can do whatever he puts his mind to, so long as he’s trusting in the power of God’s mind to help him, not just his own.


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