A puzzle being put together.

Our limits are a gift from God

I admire people who know how to say no. More specifically, I admire people who recognize that they have limits. People who know that, as much as they might want to, they can’t do everything. Whether it’s attending social gatherings, taking on special projects, or anything else you can think of, they know their priorities, and their limitations.

So they count the cost and act in light of the cost. They plan accordingly. This is a wonderful gift. But even though it’s something I admire, it’s also a struggle.

Discovering and embracing my limits

Embracing my limitations has never been easy for me. And I don’t mean in the sense of taking on too many tasks, professional and ministry limitations that come with platform culture, anything like that.1 I’m genuinely less concerned about jumping at every opportunity, regardless of time, skill, or gifting than I used to be.

For me, it’s more about the limits that cause specific tasks and situations to be a struggle. The ones that frustrate me because of how much effort it takes to do what seems to come so naturally to others, and because of the toll those activities take on me mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I didn’t know what some of these limits were until 2023. More correctly, I didn’t know them by name. But when I did learn what they were, it made so many experiences make more sense, like when you find that one puzzle piece that unlocks the whole image.2

While I’m not going to share the specifics here, I’ve spent the last year learning about the goodness of these limits. Because, even though the process hasn’t been easy, learning what those limits are gave me a freedom I didn’t know I lacked. The freedom to be able to start saying no more quickly, and to find different ways to manage situations that are too important to say no to. To seek help where I needed it. To see that those limits are a gift, especially after sharing them with my community.

Our limits are a gift

There’s a line in a book that I read years ago by Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor. It’s not even actually a line in the body of the book. It’s a subhead that reads, “The boundaries of your calling reveal God’s pastoral care for you.”

While there are obvious applications to ministry, influence, and the like, it’s easy to forget that that the kind of limitations I’m talking about are part of those boundaries too. That they are a way through which God reveals his care for me—and for us. A counterintuitive kindness, but a kindness nonetheless. Even more than reminding us that we are not God, our limits encourage us to see the goodness of life together. Of being part of a community that bears one another’s burdens, weeps with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. People with whom we can share our weaknesses, and God uses to carry us forward.

That is the goodness of our limits. That is their gift. It doesn’t make discovering or acknowledging them less difficult, or less painful. But it gives that difficulty a purpose. But through them, God reveals his care for us. And in that we can find comfort.

  1. Although the notion of “platform” is increasingly becoming irrelevant, especially between social media and publishing. A large X, Instagram, TikTok or YouTube following does not a bestseller make. ↩︎
  2. Granted, it also made some experiences so much worse in hindsight, but c’est la vie. ↩︎

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Our limits are a gift from God”

  1. Pingback: Our limits are a gift from God – Reformed faith salsa style

  2. Thank you Aaron, this is very helpful. I too am learning to embrace my limitations having been diagnosed with CFS 3 years ago; it’s super frustrating. But also, recently I read, No Little People, No Little Places, by Schaeffer and it was very helpful too. Here is a short excerpt:

    “Quietness and peace before God are more important than any influence a position may seem to give, for we must stay in step with God to have the power of the Holy Spirit. If by taking a bigger place our quietness with God is lost, then to that extent our fellowship with Him is broken and we are living in the flesh, and the final result will not be as great, no matter how important the larger place may look in the eyes of other men or in our own eyes. Always there will be a battle, always we will be less than perfect, but if a place is too big and too active for our present spiritual condition, then it is too big.” (Francis A Schaeffer, No Little People, No Little Places).

    That was a powerful thing to read for someone who never feels he is doing enough…

  3. Pingback: A La Carte (February 28) | BiblicalCounselor.com

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