Two years ago, I wrote about an abrupt encounter I had with my own limits and the recognition that, much as I try, I’m simply not cut out for certain things. (For a good laugh, check out the story here.) I hope the lessons learned from how Jesus lived with limits (excerpted below) serve as a timely reminder during this global pandemic to give yourself and others grace as you navigate the various demands on your time, emotions, and resources. (See here and here for other thoughts on COVID-19.)
In a do-it-all, be-it-all, have-it-all society, embracing one’s limits is a difficult task. Christian leaders in particular can have trouble remembering who is Creator and who is created as we seek to serve the Lord through serving others. And yet, Jesus himself, in very nature limitless God, chose to limit himself by taking on human flesh. As such, he shows us what it means to be fully human, how to live a life of dependence on the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A few principles from His life:
Jesus rested. I don’t know if Christ got 8-10 hours of shut-eye most nights, but I do know clocks, coffee, and electricity weren’t invented until centuries later. Other than the times we see him wrestling all night in prayer, Jesus likely submitted his work/sleep schedule to the cadence of the day and the rhythms of the very sun and moon he created. In addition, Scripture reveals Jesus observed a weekly Sabbath, God’s gift to man to cease work and enjoy him and his creation. We see in Jesus’ life a pattern of engagement with people and withdrawal from the demands of ministry to receive refreshment through time with his Father.
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)
Jesus remembered his identity instead of succumbing to the expectations of others. Jesus drew strength from the Father’s approval of Him, notably given before He performed any sort of public ministry (Luke 3:22). This secure identity enabled Jesus to face the disappointment he endured from Jews waiting for a political Messiah, family and townspeople who had different expectations of a carpenter’s son, and even those who left all to follow him, yet abandoned Him at the twelfth hour. Certain of who he was and why he had come, Jesus remained true to his identity rather than becoming what others expected.
Jesus said ‘no.’ After a full night of healing the sick in Capernaum, Jesus withdrew for rest and prepared to depart for the next town. The enamored crowds sought him out and begged him to stay. By saying ‘yes’ to these crowds, Jesus would be saying ‘no’ to the purpose God gave him. Instead, he answered, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, for that is what I was sent to do” (Luke 4:43). Knowing the needs of the people and the good he could accomplish there, only wise discernment and assured focus could have allowed Him to leave their presence.
We’re not Jesus. But we’re invited to the same level of intimacy with the Father He had.
Embracing your limits does not mean staying in your comfort zone, avoiding things that are hard, or passing up opportunities to trust God to empower you to do things only he can do.
Embracing your limits does mean knowing yourself well, recognizing your unique limitations, and seeking the Lord for discernment. It means not comparing your journey/schedule/capacity to others. It means taking note of how many hours per sleep you need per night to function well, how many outside activities/opportunities you/your family can say ‘yes’ to and remain sane and connected, and how those choices relate to your overall mission to love God and love others.
Most importantly, embracing your limits means remaining connected to the very source of life, Jesus himself. (John 15) As we abide in him, we can trust he will produce a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness in us.