“I Can’t” is Relative

It was late at night after a long and alarming day at the hospital trying to figure out what was causing our daughter so much trouble with her second pregnancy. After numerous tests and extensive consultations with several specialists, we were able to bring Krista home, providing she would inject herself with blood thinners two times each day. They had discovered that her pain was caused by a blood clot extending from her toe all the way up though her abdomen. Unnerving to say the least!

Just as we settled down together for a snack before bed, two-year-old Lizzie woke up crying. John and Krista gave me the go-ahead to try to calm her down. “You must be firm, Mom,” said Krista. “Just say in your firmest voice, ‘Lizzie, you must not cry anymore. Everything is fine. It is time to go to sleep now, and I want you to stop crying.’”

“Easy—I’ve raised four kids,” I thought as I entered her nursery with an appropriately firm look on my face. Easy until Lizzie saw me, reached up her chubby little arms, and begged through her tears, “Snuggle me, Mayme, please?” I tried—I really tried to be firm, but I just couldn’t. Into my arms she came for a Mayme snuggle.

Eventually I had to put that precious girl back into her crib. A few gentle pat-pats on her little bottom and then I slipped out to rejoin Krista and John downstairs. But by the time my foot had hit the third step she was crying again, and this time for me.  

Soon I heard Krista coming up the steps. I met her in the hallway with my most pitiful grandmother’s look on my face and told her in all sincerity, “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t! I can’t resist her. I just can’t be firm enough with her.” For the first time all day, Krista smiled and said with a twinkle in her eye, “What do you mean you can’t! I have a life-threatening blood clot and have to shoot myself full of medicine two times a day until this baby comes.  Mom, ‘I can’t’ is relative.”

Indeed. What “I can’t!” are you dealing with today? Overwhelming bills? A painfully broken relationship? That frightening lab report? Another lonely move?  

The apostle Paul knew how to deal with the “I can’t!”s of life, the overwhelming burdens of “any and every circumstance” (Phil. 4:12). He looked to Jesus. He saw Christ as his helper, his friend, his Savior.

We can follow Paul’s example. Alone, we can’t. We’re hopeless and helpless. But in Christ we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

“I can’t” is relative. 

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About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund is a well-known writer and conference speaker. She is the wife of Raymond Ortlund Jr., who is an author, a former seminary professor and pastor, and the president at Renewal Ministries. Jani, a former schoolteacher, holds a master’s degree in education and serves as executive vice president at Renewal Ministries (ortlund.net). The Ortlunds have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

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