It was a dirty little four-letter word I declared a no-no in my grade-school classroom: “Can’t.”

Key word of laziness or discouragement, I felt. It only hampered their young spirits.

I knew, because I’d uttered it too often myself, growing up, facing various challenges. Yet with the necessary push, I’d ended up accomplishing. I even came eventually to believe I could do almost anything, with enough time and determination.

Smug little me! Did God ever have to make life difficult, for me to finally admit the truth: I CAN’T!!

Put the emphasis on “I.”

I can’t — do anything my Creator doesn’t enable me to do.

Even my innate talents aren’t my doing. I didn’t form in myself any inherent abilities, even to see, walk, talk, or learn anything.

More importantly, beyond the natural achievements, ANY kind of SPIRITUAL ENDEAVOR AT ALL has to be HIS WORKING (John 15:5).

That’s the life-long lesson God’s kept teaching me — mostly in the classrooms of Hard Knox U!

Evidently I need lots of review, because He keeps sending me back there!

Yet, how each revisit sooner or later leaves me blessed!

For when I come to the end of my self and admit, “God, I can’t do this. You’ll have to do this in me,” that’s when I get to see my little human shell accomplishing amazing things I know without doubt are not my doings, but God in me, “who works in [me] both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13)

His power is perfected in weakness (2 Cr 12:9), not in smug, self-sufficient strength. It’s through Him, who strengthens me, that “I can do all things” (Phl 4:13).

So once He shook me into awareness of this truth, my life verse became “When I am weak, then I am strong!” (2 Cr 12:10). (Maybe I should say, “when I know I am weak…”?)

That’s the realization each of us must reach:

I. Can’t. Do. This. But if it’s Your will, You can do it in me.

Yes, my whole life changed — took on new power I’d never known — after shedding the old philosophy of “you-can-do-anything-(yourself)-if-you-try,” “you-are-the-little-engine-that-could” — once it lay dead as a doornail, rusted and bent, just as I lay rusted and bent inside, near ready to hide behind the sofa, curled in fetal position, go into a catatonic state, and never come out.

Some people don’t need to end up so desperately wrecked to see that “Apart from [Christ] you can do nothing” good or right. Some people may understand from early on their own weakness and constant need for God’s Spirit working in and through them.

Knowing His strength in my weakness could have staved off one of big-D depression’s main causes, “perceived helplessness.” Realizing where amazing strength and power come from makes us, not helpless, but “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power” (Col 1:11), able to surmount incredible difficulties.


“I am the vine, you [are] the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5

__ __

Thanking Him this morning for these gifts:

~Flowers all about me now, outdoors and in, to savor in sight and smell. (Each time I catch a glimpse, passing by them, I feel my heart lift!)

~New birdsongs outside my window, added to the feathered chorus.

~Senses of seeing, hearing, scenting; of touch and taste (my maternal grandmother had no taste-bud function).

~Ability to walk, talk, use my hands, my brain, to appreciate and love.

~Lessons in life that have shown me how much I need Him at work in my life, and yes, actions.

~His power working within me, enabling me to do what “I can’t.”

__ __

{In some future post, how “Work out your own salvation…” and “It is God Who works in you…” (Phil 2:12,13) fit together.}


Linked to

Word-Filled Wednesday

On In Around button

15 thoughts on “I Can’t!

  1. This is right where I am, too. Love these verses to inspire me to rely on HIS strength, not my own. To even get through this day and accomplish my to-do list, I need Jesus in me. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. So glad if it encourages you, Lisa. This is what I have to keep coming back to!

  3. My mother used to say, “You can’t, but God can!” He enables us. It’s helped me do many things I though I just couldn’t do. What an encouraging post. I like your term, “perceived helplessness.” That perception is where Satan wants to keep us. So thankful we don’t have to stay there!

  4. Yes, Pamela, that is the exact right perspective (“You can’t, but God can!”) and the one that gets us out of Satan’s deception. Wise mother.

  5. My journey is not so different, friend. This is such a helpful and countercultural post. I appreciate you and your words! May the Lord show Himself strong in, for, and through you.

  6. Yep, Tinuviel, so counterculture, but so effective and blessed! Same blessing back on you!

  7. Oh, yes! Yes, yes, yes! So true. So, so true. It’s all Him. Only Him. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. More and more I am finding that it is all His doing. I really can’t do anything without Him. And I am so thankful for His strength. Blessings!

  9. Sylvia,

    You are like a concordance. I LOVE how the Scripture just fills your posts! Your post and mine contain the same message, but yours is so very rich in His Words. I thank Him for your dedication to the Word. Your intensity heightens my resolve and supports what I know to be true.

    Bask in the sonshine,

  10. I gotta tell you, Dawn, I just fell in love with His Word, once I was His begotten-again child, diving right down deep into it from early on. It is so rich we can never in our lifetimes plumb its depths. It filled me with His new life, and keeps on filling, more and more, like the widow’s oil. So any tools or means I can latch onto that help me keep diving and digging, I do. Thank you for the blessing! And may you bask in His Sonshine all through this day, too!

  11. Yes, Mary, anything that is anything is all Him! Thank you for commenting. Blessings to you, too!

  12. Yes, Christina, it is an amazing phenomenon, isn’t it, how His strength comes through in our weakness, when we just look to Him and let it, and then we’re strong way beyond our means!

  13. You’ve got it, Ms Kathleen! That is what I come to as the C in the get- C-L-O-S-E-R -to-Him process: Call on Him. Even, CALL OUT to Him. (But I’m realizing that’s a later post…) So glad to see you here this morning. Thank you for commenting!

  14. “Even my innate talents aren’t my doing. I didn’t form in myself any inherent abilities, even to see, walk, talk, or learn anything.”

    Gosh, this is so important for me to remind myself of. Every day. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. Amen.

Comments are now closed.