While our daily challenges may vary in type, intensity, and frequency, there seem to be three general areas in which we can seek and receive divine help in our lives. The strengthening power of Christ is designed and available for all three of these types of daily tests.
1. Strength to Meet Trials and Challenges
Although often unspoken or unknown to others, daily burdens are borne by all people. “In the quiet heart is hidden / Sorrow that the eye can’t see” isn’t just beautiful poetry, it’s painfully accurate too. Some face daily challenges related to work and finances, while others need help in their marriages and families. Some are tested daily through a physical disability or persistent pain. While we are sure to experience difficulty in life, one of the promises in scripture is that, regardless of the source of our trial, Christ can give us strength to meet and successfully bear our burdens.
“How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance” (Alma 14:26) was the plea of Alma and Amulek when they were unjustly imprisoned, and God gave them strength and deliverance. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength,” said Isaiah. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29–31).
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the Lord can give us divine courage and protection to conquer our obstacles in our fiery furnace of affliction. Like Ruth and Naomi, the Lord can grant us courage, faith, wisdom, and solutions to overcome our challenges and difficulties. Or like Amanda Smith—who miraculously healed the hip of her son who was wounded during the Haun’s Mill massacre—the Lord can inspire our minds with instructions and answers to solve problems when we don’t know what to do.
Sometimes, though, the burden or trial isn’t removed for a long time, if at all, such as in the case of a permanent disability or familial disintegration. What then? The Book of Mormon teaches us that sometimes God doesn’t eradicate the burden, but he gives us spiritual strength to carry us through its difficulty. This truth is beautifully summarized by Mormon when he wrote of Alma’s people, who were in bondage and prayed for deliverance: “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease” (Mosiah 24:15).
Because of mortality and human agency, sometimes God won’t change circumstances to relieve a burden. WhenGod can’t or won’t change an external circumstance, however, he can andwill change our internal workings to successfully meet the challenge, ifwe let him. He often does this by making our burdens feel lighter through divine spiritual gifts that expand our perspective, empower our understanding, alter our attitude, and provide patience, comfort, and peace.
2. Strength to Resist Temptation and Overcome Sin
A second aspect of divine strength we can receive is power to resist temptation and overcome sin. This is different than cleansing and healing from sin and transgression; this is a protective power to “suffer us not to be led into temptation” (JST, Matthew 6:13).
Masterful paintings that have been damaged often go through a careful process of cleansing years of dirt and dust buildup, healing rips in the canvas and breaks in the frame, and restoring lost pigment. That is not all, however. There is also an extensive conservation aspect of the cleansed, healed, and restored art: The curators add layers of protective varnish, control temperature and natural light exposure, install security warning systems, and go to great lengths to shield the artwork from future damage. Similarly, Jesus not only cleanses, heals, and restores us from the damaging effects of sin, but his grace also grants daily power to guard and protect us against future damaging disobedience. This strengthening power enables us to resist partaking of “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12:1) as Paul said.
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “One of the most devastating effects of sin is that it weakens you, binds you, brings you down to slavery. The grace of God and of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the answer to that predicament. If you will but humble yourselves and turn to Them, then Their grace, Their enabling power, can not only help you throw off the chains of sin but actually turn your weaknesses into strengths.”
3. Strength to Do Good Works
A third aspect of the strengthening power of Christ is a power that is given to us to do good works beyond our natural capacities. It is a power granted to do miracles, in every sense of the word (see Alma 26:12). The Bible Dictionary teaches: “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ . . . receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.”
This gift to do and be good beyond our natural capacity is perhaps most evident in church callings and assignments. Ironically, or perhaps purposefully, most of us are called to serve in church positions for which we are utterly unqualified. No formal training in religious pedagogy? No problem, come teach the Gospel Doctrine class! Social phobia? Let’s assign you three families to home teach. Can’t manage your own finances? We’d like to call you to be the ward clerk. Get easily frustrated by your children? Then come model Jesus’s love and patience as a Primary worker! Terrible note-taker? Secretary in the presidency for you. You say you’re not a natural leader? Well, the Lord would like you to be the bishop.
With regard to our church callings, however, the ever-quotable Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.” Those of us who have offered the Lord our personal five loaves and two fishes and placed them in his marvelous hands have watched him multiply our capacity to feed thousands with basketfuls left over (see John 6:9–12). Each week in wards across the earth, the strengtheningpower of Christ is manifest in millions of persons performing anddoing good works beyond their natural capacity as the Lord qualifiesthem through endowments of his enabling grace.
Beyond callings, the strengthening power of Christ is available for any worthy work we might undertake: whether doctor or dentist, scientist or researcher, teacher or student, artist or entertainer, businessperson or construction worker, athlete or mathlete. Above all, divine strength to do good works is given for the daily, eternally important work of families: to spouses, parents, and children, each of whom is striving to perform a work beyond their natural capacities.
The same power that strengthened Peter to walk on water is the same power that can strengthen you to accomplish amazing things. The power that enabled Mary the mother of Jesus to bear and care for the Son of God is the very power that divinely enables mothers the world over to bear and care for God’s other beloved children.
Receiving Strength Through Weakness
As with many of Christ’s teachings, there is a paradox in the process of receiving divine strength: it comes through admitted weakness. Just as true freedom only comes through submissive obedience(John 5:39), true strength only comes through acknowledging true dependence. The Apostle Paul said that his “strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities [weaknesses], that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
I am impressed with how Alcoholics Anonymous fully employs the paradoxical idea of strength through weakness. The very first step in their 12-step program articulates the theology of dependence: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable” and then, step two: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Our own LDS-adapted version, the Addiction Recovery Program, uses almost the same language in their 12 steps, teaching that “as you yield your heart to God and grow stronger in humility, your resolve not to repeat past behaviors will become firmer and firmer.”
“Stronger in humility” is not a contradiction—it’s a gospel truth. Divine strength in any form is received through humble, utter dependence upon God.
Much like the Apostle Peter’s first encounter with the Lord, we can only receive Christ’s strengthening power when we seek him in an attitude of dependence. Peter, an expert and professional fisherman who had fished all night long and caught nothing on his own may have been hesitant to turn to a carpenter and traveling preacher for fishing advice when he, seemingly randomly, told him where to drop his net. Peter, with an air of self-sufficiency, tells Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing.”
Notice, then, the catalyzing word, the turn in humble submissiveness to Christ: “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake” (Luke 5:5–6; emphasis added). When we trust in the arm of the flesh (see 2 Nephi 4:34), pridefully rely upon our own wisdom and strength (see Helaman 16:15), and think we are wise, knowing of ourselves (see 2 Nephi 9:28), we dam the waters of Christ’s enabling grace. Conversely, whenwe trust in God, humbly approach him in our admitted weakness, andturn to him for the answers, it opens the floodgates of grace and causes asurge of divine strength. Thus, as Moroni was taught by Christ, “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Admitting our weakness to God is exactly what enables Christ to strengthen us: “And because thou has seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong” (Ether 12:37; emphasis added). Self-sufficiency and independence, while virtues, are antithetical to actuating grace.
Conscious, dependent humility is the very thing that will help us receive Christ’s strengthening grace in our daily life.
If the Lord Has Such Great Power
When Nephi’s brothers mocked him and challenged his ability to build a ship to cross the ocean, Nephi recounted how Moses and the children of Israel were “led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise” (1 Nephi 17:42), and he rebuked his brothers for not believing that God could similarly lead them. And then, Nephi preached a sermon of strengthening poetry:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto them that they should murmur no more against their father; neither should they withhold their labor from me, for God had commanded me that I should build a ship.
“And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.
“And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:49–51).
If the Lord has such great power . . . how is it that he cannot instruct me? That same statement or question should resonate in themind of all who truly believe in the grace and strengthening powerof Jesus Christ. If God has given so much power, deliverance, and strength to countless disciples in varied situations across all generations, how is it that He cannot give it to us today? Why can’t He give me strength to meet my challenges and bear my burdens?
How is it that Jesus cannot give me power to resist daily temptations and overcome sin? If the Lord has helped so many people in the past do so many marvelous works, how is it that He cannot help me to do good works beyond my natural capacity? The truth is, if we seek Him today, acknowledging our weakness to receive his strength, through His daily grace He can and He will. Through the strengthening power of Christ we can be given “strength such as is not known among men” (D&C 24:12).
In Christ in Every Hour, gospel educator Anthony Sweat explores six of Christ's divine powers, explaining what they mean, why they're relevant, and what they can do for us as we live life each day. Discover more about Christ's power to cleanse, heal, restore, identify with, strengthen, and transform us, and learn how to draw upon the Lord's grace and power in every hour of your life.
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