Living within our limits can feel restrictive. But Jesus offers us a new way of living, where boundaries help us connect deeply with him and others.

5 Ways to Embrace Our Limitations

words by

Michelle LeMaster

photos by

Mick Haupt

I rolled over, alert and restless — an insufferable combination. Begrudgingly checking the time, I hoped for any other verdict, but the stark silence outside my New York City window was an obvious confirmation. 2:30 a.m. While the rest of the “city that never sleeps” peacefully slumbered, I fidgeted, as though a pot of coffee had just been injected into my veins. My mind raced, recounting my tasks for the upcoming day. I knew this feeling all too well. My chronic insomnia had returned.

I looked over at my husband and my heart sank. With an ice pack slung over his head, he was suffering from a migraine for the fifth day in a row.

We had just gotten married and set lofty goals for ourselves. With the hamster wheel of wedding planning behind us, we couldn’t wait to establish rhythms together.

But what was happening to our plan of getting a full eight hours of sleep, enjoying a morning quiet time, working out, completing a productive workday, engaging with our neighbors, seeing friends, taking our dog to the park, and prepping meals together at night? Newlyweds are supposed to be radiant and hopeful. Yet here we were, barely able to keep our eyes open throughout the day. I could practically hear Stinger from my husband’s favorite movie, “Top Gun,” saying, “Your ego is writing checks that your body can’t cash.” Our physically induced limitations were inhibiting us. We didn’t have the energy to live the life we imagined.

Through many drowsy and tear-filled nights, we reckoned with our lack of control. We pleaded with God to heal our insomnia and migraines. Paradoxically, we started to notice that our sleepless nights produced a certain alertness during the day. We intentionally moved more slowly. We prayed more often. And most importantly, we became increasingly aware of God’s presence.

woman carrying white picket fence at night Our God-given limits can act as protective fences that provide a boundary for belonging, rest and thriving.

In a society that embraces “doing it all” and “knowing it all”  as accomplishments, we find it difficult to live within our finiteness.  But our lives are full of limitations. Jesus himself was no stranger to weakness. Being in very nature a limitless God, he chose to restrict himself by taking on human flesh. His willing example shows us what it means to be fully human and how to live a life of dependence on the Father.

Is it a limitation or is it sin? Human limitation is different from the idea of “sin” or even “fallenness.” Our response to limitation, however, can be a sinful response. Limitations are a built-in aspect of God’s design, as creator of time and space. However, to be human is to also push against and resist our fragility at every turn. This resistance can produce sin in us, but the reaction is separate from the circumstance to which we respond. Consider, for example, when a child explodes in a temper tantrum. Neurologically speaking, a person’s prefrontal cortex plays a central role in cognitive control functions — influencing attention and impulse inhibition, along with many other things. Yet it isn’t close to being fully developed until age 25. Therefore, the development of a child’s brain (prefrontal cortex) is a limitation. Yet in the scenario mentioned above, the child’s response to this development (temper tantrum) can be a sinful response.

In his book “You’re Only Human,” Kelly Kapic speaks to this, stating, “The creator God is not embarrassed by the limitations of our bodies and his material world but fully approves of them in and through the Son’s incarnation. Only when we appreciate this can we clearly see how human limits should not be confused with sin but, rather, seen as a positive aspect of our humanity.”

Whether the result of tragedy, aging, medical circumstances, family of origin or wounds from things that have happened to us, we are constantly reminded that we are fragile creatures. We possess far less power than we imagine, yet many of us hold onto the delusion that if we work harder, become more efficient or change something about ourselves, we can regain control. We were never meant to live this way.

Limitations, in their truest form, were actually part of God’s initial design for us to flourish. Immediately after God created Adam and Eve, he planted a tree in the center of the garden. God told them, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, English Standard Version).

Wherever Adam and Eve stood in the garden, the tree reminded them that they were limited in knowledge and power. God guaranteed their abundance and provision, alongside their barriers. He lovingly created them and reminded them that they were not God.

In his book “Creation and Fall,” author, pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this: “The human being’s limit is at the center of human existence, not on the margin.… Where the boundary — the tree of knowledge — stands, there stands also the tree of life, that is, the very God who gives life. God is at once the boundary and the center of our existence.”

Within the limitation of knowledge, Adam and Eve depended on God to be all-knowing. They could trust that he knew what was best for them, and they could live in joyful dependence on him. However, rather than acknowledging their finiteness as a way to commune with God as their Father and provider of all things, they ate from the tree. Perfect peace with God was disrupted. 

As a result of Adam and Eve’s choice, we also experience a disjointed relationship with the loving boundaries God has set — we, too, often look for greener pastures and more control over our lives.

As I’ve struggled to navigate productivity amid sleepless nights and migraines, my eyes have slowly opened to a new way of living. A style of living where each limitation becomes an invitation to joyfully depend on a God who has none.

man in jersey throws football from inside a small white picket fence while two other men look on God offers us deep freedom and connection to others as we journey through life the way he designed it.

How do we embrace our limits, rather than work against them? I invite you to learn some helpful practices alongside me, as we look to depend on God together.

#1: Be wary of what comparison and shame tell you

As a born and bred New Yorker, moving slowly has never been my strong suit.

Years before serving with Cru®, I worked as marketing director for a fashion brand. One morning felt especially taxing. Sprinting from the subway onto busy Manhattan streets, I lugged four bags of clothing. Then I power-walked in my heels down the cobblestones, struggling to maintain a speed in line with all the commuters around me. I succeeded, but by the time I showed up to the photo shoot, my body was completely run down. My feet were pain-ridden and my arms felt like jello.

Shame, like a dense cloud, covered me. I watched all my co-workers perform their daily tasks, alert and chipper. Despite the difficulty of my morning commute, I couldn’t help but compare myself to their liveliness. Instead of trusting God with the clear restraints on my morning, I wanted to ensure I could stack up to everyone and be my own hero.


When we choose to admit and live within our confinements, we can denounce the lie that we are our own savior. We can affirm John the Baptist’s words, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20, ESV). Jesus gets to be all things, and we, in joyful acceptance, can connect to Jesus as our source of strength and live within the framework he’s laid out.

#2: Lean into your identity as a loved child of God

Many of us are driven by an internal hourglass, rather than living in harmony with natural time constraints set by God. With overflowing schedules, commitments and to-do lists, we are daily tempted to weigh our worth based on how much we can get done. This produces in us a burden of trying to be something we are not: unlimited. One question often lurks at the intersection of our capacity for the day and that “one more item” to complete: “Am I enough?”

You might assume you have to do more to earn God’s attention or favor. However, God isn’t phased by how much you can offer him. He made you and understands how you best operate. He wants to meet you where you are.

For Andrew Garber, a staff member with Embark, Cru’s ministry to young professionals, embracing time constraints involves creative new ways to integrate parts of his life.

Working with young professionals who typically [work 9 to 5], it’s hard to find consistent, regular times for discipleship and evangelism. I used to view family life and ministry at odds with one another, but over the past few years I’ve found the most significant times of ministry have been when I invite them into my family life. Whether that’s dinner at our dining room table or having one of my kids tag along for lunch/coffee, I’ve found the circumstances I used to think were ‘limitations’ have actually been incredible opportunities.


Everyone God has ever used in the history of the world has faced limitations.

God’s answer to your question of “Am I enough?” is always a resounding yes. You get to be the person created and loved by God, exactly as you are.

white picket fence surrounding a man at his desk in an office You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favor. In fact, God wants to meet you exactly where you are.

#3: Live unhurried

In an increasingly complex and fast-paced world, our society is unwilling to slow down for rest. Embedded into professional industries is the assumption “time is money.” The messaging is quite clear: Fast is good and slow is bad.

In his book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” John Mark Comer speaks to this state of our souls, saying, “The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.”


He goes on to say, “To walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.” – John Mark Comer

Consider where in your life you may be tempted to pick up the pace.

Slowing down has been a growing process for Emily Laning, a staff member with FamilyLife®, Cru’s ministry to families. “Limitation means I do slightly less but at a more sustainable pace,” she says. “It means ministry results define me less than they used to. I hope it means that others experience freedom with me and from me to embrace their humanity and be who they are.”

Spend time asking Jesus to show you what real rest and slowness might look like. Think about writing down some of your natural limitations. What is your response when you clash with one? This exercise will help reveal some patterns that might need attention.

#4: Look ahead

When confronted with moments of discouragement, exhaustion and suffering, we have hope that a perfect world is coming where King Jesus will make all things right and “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us (1 Peter 5:10, ESV).

On that glorious day, our faith will be made sight, our decaying bodies will be restored and we will be with our perfect, limitless, good Savior forever. 

#5: Don’t journey alone

We often don’t ask for help because we refuse to believe we are limited. 

From the beginning, God’s plan involved depending on others and on him. Believers from the early church in Acts expressed this through caring for widows, comforting the grieving and, overall, modeling a way of existing together. The body of Christ reflects diversity and different ways of being, so it’s impossible to fully reflect how wonderful Jesus is if we’re living in isolation.

Being needy is the very thing that enables us to connect with others. Helping, supporting and encouraging each other is not only a suggestion but also the very framework of a life God designed.

man carrying white picket fence through the city Instead of ignoring your limitations, how can you welcome them today as a sign of trust in the love of God?

Embracing limitations requires surrendering control, rejecting comparison and shame, slowing down your days, and most importantly, remaining connected to the very source of life, Jesus himself. As I continue to walk through a season that’s looked different from what I imagined, these five practices have helped me posture my heart to rely on God often. 

Though my sleeping patterns remain the same and I’m often in desperate need of a nap, I know I’m loved by a God who holds all time in his hands. If I’m invited to slow down, wait or take on less, it’s an opportunity to place my trust into the arms of one who is always acting for my good. And because God transcends all time and space, I can choose to build a life of purpose and rest, despite the circumstances.

Next Steps

Connect with God while embracing your limitations.


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