We were created to be who God designed us to be, to love who God calls us to love and to accomplish what God asks us to accomplish. That is the secret to a fruitful and fulfilled life, with great relationships and a deep sense of purpose.
Unfortunately, we all encounter obstacles that can distract, or even paralyze us, from that great life God had planned. Some of the most difficult obstacles are the inability to say no, confront, and establish consequences in relationships when you need to. There are many examples of this sort of problem:
- A child who doesn’t do homework or clean up after herself
- A husband who controls his marriage by getting angry when his wife disagrees with him
- An employee who is defensive about poor performance, and becomes “unconfrontable”
- A boss who intimidates her employees by being critical of those who speak up about problems in the organization
These obstacles can sap your energy, get you off track, discourage you, and even damage you emotionally. Most of us know how this can feel, and it’s not a good place to be.
The Bible presents a solution, which, in a word, is called boundaries.
Boundaries are your personal property line, where you set out where you end, and where the other person begins.
They help you own your time, energy, resources, and money, and decide for yourself what to do with them. Boundaries help you determine when to say yes, and how to say no . Yet so many people feel guilty about having boundaries, or that the Bible teaches us not to have them.
Proverbs 4:23 is a wonderful verse that teaches on a very rich level, how boundaries can help us. Let’s take a look:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
This is a great encapsulation of the why and the how of boundaries. Here is the breakdown of the passage, not in the exact word order, but in a linear flow for you:
- Your heart: Your heart is the core of who you are, your insides, literally the “inner person.” The word refers to all of the contents that reside in your brain. That includes your values, thoughts, opinions, feelings, and decisions. If you have ever experienced “losing heart”, when you become discouraged or demotivated, it is often because you either allowed someone to take your time or energy, or because you allowed someone inside your heart who had no business being there, and the result was that there was hurt and damage.
- Everything you do flows from it: Why is your heart so important? Because your entire life’s path depends on how healthy your heart is. All of your actions, how you treat yourself, how you engage in your relationships with God and others, and the impact you make on the world, are directed by what happens in your heart. For example, leaders who reflect on their careers will often look back on matters of the heart as being tipping points that changed the trajectory of their lives. Think of it from the health perspective. If you take care of your body and eat right, exercise, and sleep well, you are likely to have a healthy body for a long time. However, neglecting or abusing your body can easily result in sickness and dysfunction. Your heart is simply critical to living life in God’s way.
- Guard: literally, to protect. In other words, watch over your inner self, and keep it from harm. I love the fact that God put this specific word in this specific place! That is the role of a boundary, whether it be the word “no”, a difficult confrontation, or some limit you need to set in a relationship. So often, people think that saying “no” and taking responsibility to guard yourself is selfish and “all about me.” But we have been entrusted with the task of guarding this most precious gift of God. I often tell people to change the “S” from Selfishness to Stewardship, for that is how the Bible teaches it.
- Above all else: All 30,000 verses of the Bible are, by definition, from God. So when you see the words “above all else” in the Scriptures, that’s a highlighter, meaning, “pay attention, this is a priority.” So often we think that saying no to preserve our hearts should be unimportant. But God instructs us that this is a critical and life-preserving stance to take.
This is just one of so many passages that teach us that clear and loving boundaries are a tool for good in our lives. Pray over this verse and ask God to guide you to the right boundary that you need to establish today. For more information on the topic, read the Updated and Expanded edition of Boundaries by and Dr. Henry Cloud. God bless you.
Written for Devotionals Daily by Dr. John Townsend, author of Henry Cloud of Boundaries.
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Do you struggle with the inability to say no, confront, and establish consequences in relationships when you need to? How does that affect your life? We all desire to have fruitful and fulfilled lives and God’s Word says guarding our hearts is the primary way to achieve those goals! Come share your thoughts about healthy, biblical boundaries. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily