Twenty-first century life offers endless possibilities for filling our time, and many of them are worthwhile. From extra work projects and volunteer opportunities for adults to extracurricular sports and specialty lessons for kids, there are always more ways to fill our calendars. We work additional hours for that promotion, join another committee to serve our church, and help our kids manage the workload from accelerated classes. We fill our schedules, believing that more is better and less is bad. But is it?
A reality check tells us we’re finite creatures with limited energy and only 24 hours in a day. But we push against these boundaries, often doing damage to ourselves and our families as we try to have it all or squeeze it in. We run ourselves ragged, filling most of our waking hours in an effort to get ahead or simply keep up. Should we live this way? What does the Bible say about limits?
1. Limits came before the fall.
Adam was created with limitations that are innate to humans. He could only jump so far, eat so much, be so tall, do so much. Though he was made in God’s image, he was not God. God was the creator, Adam the creature. God created the land, Adam worked it.
While sin was not present in the beautiful garden of Eden in those first days, limits were. This tells us something about the nature of limits: they’re not inherently connected to sin. Some limits were woven into us on purpose by God.
Limits were woven into us on purpose by God.
As the Psalmist writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). In his wisdom and kindness, God limited our capacity—for our good. Our limits come from the hand of a loving God, to help and not to harm.
2. The perfect human had limits.
When Jesus condescended in the incarnation, he chose to live with the physical capacity of a human in first-century Palestine. In fact, when he had opportunities to push human limits, he often chose to do otherwise. Think of the crowds that gathered when Jesus healed in the villages. He healed some, but did not heal every person. Think of the additional hours he could have spent teaching his disciples.
Instead, he slept, rested, ate, and drank. Surely he could have begun his ministry earlier than age 30. Yet he traveled and taught only three of the 33 years he lived on earth. Over and over, Jesus set boundaries, lived within constraints, and submitted to limits. And he moved with grace, contentment, and flexibility within those limits, allowing time for interruptions and needy people.
3. God uses limits to remind us of who we are and who he is.
James 4:14 gives us a humbling reminder: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” God, however, “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15b–16a). We are the dependent, needy, fragile creatures who must cry out for help. He is the self-sufficient, holy, never-ending creator, who hears every cry.
This basic relationship is easy for us to forget as proud humans. But we’re reminded of our limits when we wait for the rain to grow our food and when we get into our beds at night because our bodies need rest. We’re reminded of God’s limitlessness when we look at the night sky and see the millions of stars in our galaxy and when we consider the billions of people and living creatures he sustains every day.
We are the dependent; God is the provider. This is a comfort to our weary souls the way a good parent’s strength is a comfort to a small child. We don’t have to strategize and strive every waking moment. We can relax, trusting God’s strength and knowing that he is always at work.
4. God uses limits to direct us.
Instead of pushing against our limits with disdain, we can consider them guides to help us make decisions about life in the kingdom of God. We can understand our God-given limits as a protective fence that provides a boundary for rest, safety, and thriving. The fence is not something to be trampled and overcome, but embraced and considered.
We don’t have to strategize and strive every waking moment. We can relax, trusting that God is always at work.
Seeing limits as a protection leads us to ask different questions when we consider how to use our time and resources. For example, might your resentment at hosting another community group meeting be an indicator, not of your unloving heart, but of your need to take a break from leading? Might your children’s exhaustion at the end of the week be the answer to your prayer for wisdom about their extracurricular activities? Or, conversely, might your joy and energy increase after teaching children’s Sunday school be an indication of how God is calling you to serve in your church?
We all have limits, and we cannot ignore them. They’re not a sign of our sin, but of our humanity—a gift from a loving Father. Take time to consider your limits carefully, whether seasonal, physical, emotional, or otherwise. Embrace them, and ask the Spirit to show you how to trust him as you live within your limits.