I am convinced that the number one thing that causes people to limit themselves is how small they think in regard to what God wants to do in their life. Naturally, our paradigm for what’s possible isn’t as big as the Kingdom perspective we could be tapping into. The description of the Israelites in Psalm 78 is applicable to several people I know:
“Again and again they limited God, preventing him from blessing them. Continually they turned back from him and provoked the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41
The Israelites journey through the wilderness was prolonged by their continual disobedience and disbelief about the Promised Land that God had for them. They limited God, and in doing so, they limited their own blessings! A trip that should have taken them 11 days ended up taking them 40 years because they weren’t thinking right. There are a few reasons I’ve found for why people think small, and they’ve all come from my own journey of learning how to actually, really, trust God.
1. We don’t realize that God is for our dreams.
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4, NIV
For some reason, there is a tendency to think our dreams and God’s plans for our lives are two separate things. Sometimes, they are. God will ask us to give up certain things in order to pursue the path He has for us. You can know that a desire you have isn’t from God if it blatantly goes against His commandments or if they aren’t in line with biblical promises. For example, I believe that you can pray for your future spouse. However, it can get a little weird when you pray for a specific future spouse by name. When I was working as a pastor in my twenties, I had a woman call me to ask for prayer for just that.
“Pastor Billy, I am single,” she began. “Can you agree with me in prayer for my future husband?” I told her that I could do that, but she wasn’t finished. She gave me a name, and it sounded really familiar. Then it hit me. “Ma’am…is this man married?!” I demanded. “Well, yes,” she started, “and his wife doesn’t like me hanging around very much.” This is a very obvious example of how your desires aren’t always put there by God!
However, many times you have desires for a reason. I believe that God gives us desires to guide us in life. Don’t get caught up in false humility; instead, realize that you’re not that smart on your own. All of the vision, experience, gifts, and connections you’ve been blessed with have come from God. Give credit where credit is due and recognize that many of the dreams and goals you have were given to you by a Creator who knows what He’s doing.
Tip: You don’t have to limit your goals to what makes sense
Sometimes, your desires don’t seem like they go together. One of my regrets is not going to a certain accounting school for post-grad in my twenties. I was a pastor, and it didn’t feel like it made sense, but I loved accounting and really wanted to go. At that time, it was frowned upon for pastors to be bi-vocational. Looking back, I think that I could have attended school in that season of life. Your goals don’t have to fit together like a puzzle in your mind’s eye. God has a bigger perspective and will orchestrate your life in such a way that all the diverse pieces come together.
2. We don’t trust God yet.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Psalm 3:5-6
Trusting God with all your heart goes beyond intellectual ascent. This kind of trust is lived out, experiential, and relational. This kind of trust is uncomfortable at first. We typically don’t choose trust like this…it chooses us. Think about how a baby bird is thrown out of the nest against its own will. Instinctually, the mama bird knows that her baby has to learn how to trust the process in order to thrive. The baby is startled at first, but it quickly learns to rapidly flap its wings in order to survive. Similarly, events in life happen to us that cause us to flail our metaphorical wings. We get nervous and realize that our verbal proclamation that we trust God might not be the reality at hand. Still, God leads us into difficult situations so we can practice this vital trust. It’s a process, so don’t feel guilty. Just commit.
To acknowledge something is to admit the existence or truth of. So, in everything we do we need to pause and acknowledge God’s existence in that space. If we do that, the verse concludes that He will make our paths straight. To make straight a path is to make the course of someone’s life continually progress to a goal. So, when you trust God, you rest in the confidence that you have a trajectory even when you feel aimless. God is with us even when we don’t know what we’re doing!
3. We’re afraid to hope.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.” We agree, of course, that it is exciting when our expectations are met and dreams come true. But when we experience the disappointment of unmet expectations, it can really cause us to stagnate. Because disappointment hurts, it can feel safer to limit our hope. We try to circumnavigate the pain of another loss by convincing ourselves that we don’t want anything at all. If you’re in this place, recognize that it is a trap. If you continue to press on with big goals, consistency, and relentless faith, there will be life and joy on the other side of your deferred hope.
Has this blog encouraged you? Do you have a story about how you removed the limits in your life? We’d love to hear about it and chat with you in the comments!