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"No" Your Limits

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them.”

Luke 4:42

One of the greatest experiences of my life came when I had the opportunity to speak at a leadership conference in Santa Clara, Cuba in February of 2015.

I remember sitting at a T-shaped intersection, waiting to turn left. There were no traffic lights or stop signs to assist you. To further complicate matters, there were three “lanes” wide in each direction (on a two-lane road) of cars, trucks, bikes, motorized scooters, horse-and-buggy travelers, and pedestrians traveling at all different speeds. If you have ever ridden in a car or bus in a developing country, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It occurred to me recently that our lives can start to look an awful lot like this sensory-overloaded mishmash of objects flying in all different directions. We are so overwhelmed with obligations and commitments that we feel victimized by our schedules. Without safety measures in place, our daily lives become marked by a level of chaos equal to trying to cross six lanes of traffic on a two-lane road in Cuba.

Schedule overload may seem like a simple problem of having too little time, but the battle starts in our minds. Our calendars don’t clutter themselves. The root of this problem is what we deem to be important to us.

It has been speculated that firstborn children, and especially daughters, are prone to be people pleasers. I think many of us can attest to this. People pleasers tend to put the needs and even the wants of others ahead of their own. Even though people pleasing gets a bad rap, it isn’t all bad. If it wasn’t for even-tempered, happy-go-lucky, agreeable individuals who can mediate even tense situations, the United States would probably be at war with Canada.

But the problem comes when we start to believe that we don’t have a choice.

We can start to feel such a strong sense of obligation to family members, bosses, and long-time friends that we think we would be a bad person to say no. The truth of the matter is that saying yes out of a sense of obligation means that we are saying no to someone or something else—our spouse, our children, our own health. We forget that if we don’t care for ourselves and those in our immediate realm of responsibility, we are useless to anyone else.

It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that arguably the most influential man who ever walked the face of the earth—Jesus—struggled with this too. There is a rather obscure and even pedestrian passage that describes this dilemma. Jesus, at the peak of earthy ministry, is travelling from town to town preaching the good news and healing people. When the general population began to realize that he would feed them and could heal their sick children, they followed him around like the paparazzi! Jesus was the original rock star.

As he was preparing to move on to another city, he snuck out of the house to spend some time alone in prayer. The crowd followed him. They begged him to stay in their town, but he explained that his mission was to spread the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns too. And he left.

What just happened here? Jesus essentially said to them, “Sorry, but I can’t help you.” He knew that there would be mothers waking up soon to realize that their terminally ill child would probably die because Jesus wasn’t there to heal her. He knew that the men who thought he was there to liberate them from the oppressive Roman government might think that he was a fraud. It could not have been easy—even for the Son of God—to walk away from helpless, abandoned, destitute people who so badly needed his help.

Why didn’t Jesus stay up until 2:00 a.m. to heal them and rise again at 4:30 a.m. to get everything ready so that he could still leave town the next day? That’s what some of us would do. I can’t know for certain, but my guess is that Jesus told them no because he was physically and emotionally spent. Look at his schedule over the past few months: Jesus went without food for forty days, came face-to-face with pure evil, was rejected by his own family, took a very long road trip, fought with some evil spirits, and healed tons of people. I don’t think it’s a far stretch to believe that he was introvert and needed time by himself to regroup. Jesus understood that he was human and subject to the same limitations we are, and that he didn’t have limitless energy.

So the next time you ask, What would Jesus do, realize that he would—and did when he walked the earth—help when he could, but recognize when he needed to walk away.

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