“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). What an interesting verse. Many have claimed this verse during difficult times. In fact, one could probably conclude that the author of this text, the apostle Paul, faced nothing but difficult times. The very location from which he penned these words was a prison cell. Reflecting on this verse and Paul’s experience with the early Christian church, I wondered: How did Christ strengthen Paul? Was it physical, emotional, spiritual or all of the above? Did it just happen, did he expect Paul to do something to attain the strength, and is it still available today?

I found the answer to my question in the verses that precede this statement. In Philippians 4:4-8, 13, Paul begins to outline how he receives this strength and where it comes from. The answer is simple and relies on trusting in God’s design of cause and effect. You can read the passage in its entirety here, but I will outline what Paul lays out:

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always—for He is near.
  2. The peace that surpasses all understanding comes from bringing our requests to Him with thanksgiving. 
  3. Focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. When this is put into practice, the peace of God will be with you. 
  4. The result of these things is that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us

You see, the strength of God comes through focusing on the things that are of Him. When I find myself feeling anxious, depressed and unmotivated, I return to these verses and ask myself: Am I practicing these things in my life? It can become so easy to focus on negative things and get wrapped up in things that cause discontent in my life. In truth, we really are what we eat. 

As we move into this new year with all the different challenges we may be facing, I encourage each of us to take some time and evaluate what we are focused on. I am not suggesting that we neglect or ignore that we are facing challenges in our lives. I am suggesting that we face them with Paul’s framework of being intentional about what we choose to focus on. 

If you are facing some challenges, negative thoughts or negative emotions, I would suggest taking some time each day to write down the things you are thankful for. As you look at your list, rejoice in what God has given you, lift your request to Him, focus on the good and see how He begins to strengthen you.