Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther? “
Job 38: 8 – 11
The Lord sets limits to all things. This far you may come and no farther. While God calls us to grow, He also places boundaries that limit our growth. If we can accept the fact that there are God-ordained purposes to the limitations of our life we can perhaps be more open to acknowledging them and learning how to work within their constraints.
Our lives are as circumscribed as the contours of the sea. If we could draw a topographical map of the shape of our gifts in terms of the present limits of our capacities, we would recognize what God sees and we would know why our grasp is often much shorter than our reach. This far you may come and no farther. To accept the God-set contours of our lives doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity, nor does it offer divine justification for us to be underachievers, but it does allow us to consider the possibility that limitations, in themselves, are not necessarily problems to overcome on the road to self-fulfillment.
If we consider the vision we perhaps had for ourselves in our youth and compare it to the relatively less impressive life we have since lived, we might feel like we’ve failed in achieving over potential, or that we’ve been short-changed in life. But could it be that God has directed you as much by your limitations as by your potential? Could it be that you are exactly where you are because God didn’t give you the capacity to be anywhere else at this time? And could it be that He see the limitations of your life more as an opportunity than as an impediment? In directing our lives God is able to use the things we lack as much as the things we have.
Perhaps the Lord has given you a measure of talent, but no more. What is His purpose in this limitation? Perhaps God has given you these few resources to work with, but no more. What is His purpose in this limitation? Perhaps God has given you some opportunities for ministry, but no more. What is the purpose of this limitation? Or perhaps the Lord has given you insight, allowed you to understand this much truth, and no more. What is the purpose of this limitation?
God establishes limits, and Christian theology assumes that freedom is realized through and in relation to such purposeful constraints. It is the narrowness of the river banks, after all, that gives strength to the river.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
1. How have you responded over time to limitations of various kinds in your life? Are there one or two that stand out as being especially difficult to come to terms with?
2. Can you think of examples in which your limitations have served as guides to paths in life that were fruitful and redemptive?
3. From the thoughts in this meditation what opportunities for peace, grace and a renewed perspective on life’s restrictions and limitations can you identify?
In his sermon to the Athenians, Paul says that God set boundaries on nations, determining their rising and falling. God’s purpose in doing this was that the nations would seek him.
Let’s ask God that we may have hearts that seek him in everything, and that recognize his love and grace to us in areas of frustration and limitation. Let’s embrace the promise that whoever seeks him will find him. And let’s remember (as Paul says in the same sermon) that God “is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist.” Acts 17:27,28.