by Paul Tripp
If you’re to live productively in this broken-down world, it‘s absolutely critical that you humbly admit your limits as a human being and then live within them. The limits on our abilities are extensive and profound. For one thing, because you're a physical being, your life is limited by the laws of the physical universe. The ramifications of this are huge.
You can only be in one place at a time. You can only be in one time at a time. You can’t propel yourself back into the past or launch yourself into the future; your existence is permanently anchored in the here and now.
You can’t think things into existence or alter what has already happened. You can’t remove a conversation from history or redo a disappointing day. You can’t know the details of tomorrow, let alone know exactly where you’ll be in five years!
You can’t decide you’re bored with gravity and choose to be free of it. You can’t make a personal commitment to do without oxygen and remain alive. You can’t read or reliably predict the thoughts of another. You can’t control the thoughts, desires, words, or actions of another human being. You can’t keep yourself from aging, as hard as some of us will try.
You can’t release yourself or your surroundings from the effects of the Fall. You can’t ensure that your body will be free of disease and sickness. You can’t independently free yourself or another from sin. You can’t reach in and alter the content of your own heart, let alone the heart of another. You can’t plant faith, courage, and hope into the soul of another person. You can’t ensure that your government will have integrity or that your community will be safe. You can’t make your acquaintances respect you, and you can’t ensure that your family members will treat you with love. You can’t keep yourself free from natural and environmental disaster. You can’t control the economic environment, making sure that it doesn’t alter your financial health. You can’t lay out a personal life plan and know it will unfold without interruption. You can’t ensure that your life will be easy and satisfying.
When you stand back and consider, you’re confronted with how little is actually under your control. When you stop and look, you’re faced with your smallness, your weakness, and your limits. But don’t get discouraged and don’t panic; reality is a healthy place to be. Think about it. Only when I humbly embrace my weakness, humbly admit my limits, and humbly recognize how small I actually am, can I begin to reach out for the help of the loving, powerful, and gracious Redeemer who is the true source of my strength, wisdom, and hope. Only then can I begin to function as an instrument in his powerful hands, rather than being in his way; because in forgetting who I am and who he is, I’ve been trying to do his job.
You don’t have to fear your limits. They were designed by the God who is the definition of everything that is knowledgeable, understanding, wise, and true. Your limits are not a flaw in his creative plan. They are the product of his wise choice and the fulfillment of his intentions. God made you limited, in exactly the way you are.
Yes, you’re dependent. No, you’re not independently capable. But be very clear on this: your limits are only dangerous when you forget them and try to do things you were never designed to do. When you stay within your limits, you’re exactly where God wants you; these indeed are part of their purpose. Your limits are meant to drive you in humble and worshipful need to your Lord for the rescue, restoration, wisdom, and strength only he can give you. And he’s promised never to turn a deaf ear to the cry of his children (Psalms 34:15). He’s welcomed you to cast your cares on him (1 Peter 5:7). He’s said that he’ll never leave you by yourself (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Admitting your limits is not a sign of weakness; it’s an essential ingredient of mature faith.