God has given you so many limitations because he loves you.
If you’re like most people, you don’t feel loved by your limitations. You feel confined, stunted, trapped, and exposed by them. You feel discouraged by how weak you are and how many things you can’t do well or at all. You might even be tempted to resent God for equipping you with what looks like a stingy allotment of abilities.
But that’s only because you’re mainly looking at yourself from the wrong perspective, which is looking too much at yourself.
God gave you your finiteness, your very limited strengths and weaknesses, in order that you might know and delight in his glorious love for you in as many of its manifestations as you possibly can. You are so limited because you are so loved.
Where We Experience Love Most
Our finiteness itself is not a consequence of the fall, even though the corruption that infects it is (2 Peter 1:4). God created humans incredibly limited from the very beginning because we were designed to live in a world of love.
What do our limitations have to do with love? Just about everything. Because the way God made us, we always experience love most in the places where grace is most needed. This is true both in how we receive love (from God and others), and in how we give love.
When Do We Love God Most?
Humans always have and always will live only on the grace of God, our “Maker, Benefactor, Proprietor, Upholder” (The Valley of Vision, 115). It was true in Eden before the fall, and it will be true in the age to come when we are finally free from sin.
But it is especially true in this age where we are such great sinners and in need of such amazing amounts of grace. In the Father’s giving his only Son for us in our wretched, undeserving state to die in our place, we have been loved with the greatest love possible (John 3:16; 15:13; Romans 5:8). And our response of gratitude-drenched love to him for his gracious love to us produces a holy reverberation of love-infused joy between God and us. We gratefully love God because he so graciously and sacrificially loved us first (1 John 4:19).
The more we grasp his incomprehensible love for us in our immeasurable need (Ephesians 3:19), the greater our love for him grows. That’s why the woman forgiven by Jesus of her great sins had the greater love for God than Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:47). Our greatest experience of God’s love for us is in the place of our greatest need for his grace.
When Do We Love One Another Most?
It’s also true that we experience the most love for one another in the places of our greatest mutual needs.
When God gave me my strengths, few though they are, his purpose wasn’t to give me some basis on which to feel good about myself. He gave them to me so I could have the astounding privilege of loving someone else by graciously serving them in a place of their need, and then by receiving their grateful love in return.
And when God gave me my weaknesses, which are legion, his purpose wasn’t to make me ashamed and discouraged. He gave them to me so I could have the astounding privilege of humbly receiving someone else’s love as they graciously serve me in a place of my need, and then joyfully responding to them with grateful love in return.
And just like the vertical reverberation of love between God and us, there are horizontal reverberations of love between us as we extend love to one another. And since God is love and all love originates in him (1 John 4:7–8), the vertical and horizontal reverberations all meld together into one glorious song of love to God.
Do you see God’s beautiful design of love in our limitations? The transactions of love occur in the very places of our various and different needs. As John Piper so helpfully says, “Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others” (Desiring God, 119). There it is: the dynamic melding of the vertical and horizontal love of God. God’s glory is revealed when, however imperfectly in this age, we obey the greatest commandments (Luke 10:27).
A Body of Love
God has given you so many limitations because he loves you. He wants you to experience as much of his love, in as many ways as possible. And for that to happen, he must provide you a never-ending river of reasons, and an enormous range of diverse ways, to receive and give love.
And this is just what he’s done! He has made you a very limited part of his body, the church, and he places you with other parts that are also very limited in different ways (1 Corinthians 12:18, 27). As the interdependent parts work together, the whole body functions (Romans 12:4–5) and it displays the love of God (John 13:34–35). Your unique strengths and weaknesses are indispensable gifts to this body. Without them the whole body suffers because unique expressions of God’s gracious love will be missed.
If you’re frequently discouraged over your limitations, it’s an indicator that you’re looking at yourself from the wrong perspective, and looking at yourself too much. You’re not seeing what God sees; you’re likely feeling discontent from comparing yourself to other people, other parts of the body.
A wonderful treatment for such discouragement is prayerfully meditating on 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. And also it’s likely time to reframe the question from “Why can’t I be more like that?” to “What opportunities is God giving me in my limitations to experience more of his gracious love?”
Because the truth is, you are so limited because you are so loved.