The “I Can’t!” Zone

We’ve all been there. I know I certainly have! We’ve all found ourselves in that horrible place where all we can think is… “I can’t!”” I can’t take it anymore.” “I can’t put up with one more …” “I can’t stand his/her ….” “I can’t try again.” “I can’t change.” “I can’t make it any longer!”

Over 40 years ago, my older brother who was a young Christian at the time, wrote an interesting article for a church newspaper. It was entitled, “You can’t live the Christian life.” The gist of the article was this… if we try to live the Christian life in our own strength, we will end up messing up, giving up, or cracking up.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t put human effort into living according to God’s principles? Of course not… in the Bible God tells us to work, to put off certain things, to put on other things, to persevere, etc. There are many instructions which are clear commands for us to do something. However, we are also promised a Helper who will enable us to hang in when we’d rather quit, who will lift us up when we’ve fallen and don’t think we can get up, who will help us take another step when we think we can’t even lift a foot, who will increase the effectiveness of our best efforts.

As is often the case, it comes back to my belief system. Do I really believe the Scripture which says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me the strength?” (Philippians 4:13) I don’t believe this means that next week I should jump out of an airplane without a parachute just to see whether Jesus will rescue me. I think the apostle Paul is saying that when we feel like giving up, quitting, abandoning hope, running away… in the midst of the challenges that come our way… that the Lord wants us to keep trying. And He will give us the strength to do so, if we ask.

So, I’ve concluded that when I say, “I can’t,” I’m lying. Certainly, I may feel that I can’t tackle a job, complete a task, try again, love again, give it another shot. But if I am honest with myself, I must admit that these are just feelings. They can be strong and tough to experience, but they are just feelings. They are simply temptations to resign myself to human-powered living. In such times, when I declare, “I can’t,” the truth is I’ve decided “I won’t!” And that attitude smacks of stubbornness, laziness, and plain old unbelief.

Perhaps then the “I Can’t” Zone should be renamed the “I Won’t” Zone. But no matter what the label, it is a miserable place to live. A friend of ours who is also in the counseling field refers to some of his clients as “folks who have a problem for every solution.” I love that description. Such people hunker down in the “I Can’t” Zone and even when Jesus opens the door and offers to help them escape, they refuse to go.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Cor. 10:13) Amazing… I don’t have to resign myself to “I can’t.” Jesus promises I never need to be locked in the “I Can’t” Zone. He is always willing and able to provide a way out. That means I CAN try again, I CAN persevere, I CAN keep going, I CAN make it through with His help. I CAN trust Jesus to replace my weakness with His strength. With Him, I can escape the “I Can’t” prison.

Mmmm… I guess the next question is, “Will I?”