Most of us have heard or read the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but we often forget the circumstances in which the Apostle Paul wrote this famous verse. Paul was not writing this for encouragement as he sought a job promotion, or before a big football game or standardized test. He was writing from prison at one of the lowest points of his life. In the ancient world, there were no official prison cells. Paul would likely have been thrown into an empty well or cistern. It would have been cold, damp, lacking any sort of bed, reeking of sewage and full of lice and rodents. Even worse (for Paul at least) as he was sitting in prison, a rival missionary group with a dangerous message was threatening to dismantle the Christian communities he had spent the majority of his life nurturing and cultivating. He was likely struggling with severe depression and earlier in the same letter, he even seems to have been longing for death, wavering between the decision to “depart and be with Christ,” or “remain in the flesh,” and continue in the mission God gave him. For most, this situation would push them past the point of hope and into despair. But Paul knows something most do not. That the source of his strength is not in his circumstances, or even in his own happiness. The source of his strength, that presses him on through all of these sufferings and afflictions is the transcendent peace that comes from Christ. Christ alone can provide the energy one needs to endure any circumstance. Even in that cold, damp dungeon, as his accomplishments threatened to fade away, as dark thoughts tormented him, Paul could still comfort himself knowing that he could never lose Christ, the one who gives him strength. This is just as true for us as it was for him. We all face times of hardship and suffering. Some of us struggle to provide for our basic needs. Some of us face sickness, or depression, or suffer alongside those who do. Some feel the weight of unfulfilled dreams or plans that never came to fruition. We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed by these trials. But for those of us that know Christ, we also know what Paul knew, that no matter what trouble befalls us, no matter what hardship comes our way, Jesus will never leave us, and he alone is the source of our strength. Drawing comfort in this truth, we too can endure all things.
Paul may have written this verse to the Philippians, but one cannot help but think that it was also written for his own sake. What he needed during this time of intense trial was a written reminder of this profound truth. Sometimes, that is exactly what we need too. Our mission at Atrio Hill is to make such reminders available to everyone so that you too can remember that the strength that only Christ can provide is always available to you. We offer Christian journals, Christian coffee mugs, Christian T-Shirts and Christian Jewelry that are imprinted with this exact verse. We hope that when you use it, you will receive some of the same encouragement that Paul did.