A THOUGHT ABOUT BOUNDARIES
This article is not original from me. I don’t remember where I got it and can’t find the original author. The content is worth the read, however.
Christ called us to His gospel which requires us to die to self that we might live anew in and for Him (Matt 10:39, Rom 6:5). Trials, suffering, and difficult people or circumstances have all been designed by our Lord to grow our faith and focus us on eternal rewards not temporary ones (2 Cor 4:16-18, James 1:2-4). They are designed to help us to stop living for self or turning to our own works that we might save ourselves but instead to depend solely upon and live fully unto Christ (Gal 2:20-21). We are told we are not our own; we’ve been bought with a price and therefore to glorify God with our lives (1 Cor 6:20). How do we glorify God well?
By loving others into the kingdom. The two greatest commands, love God and love others, are found at the heart of the gospel and are key to how we live it out. Christ told us there are no other commandments greater than these (Mark 12:31). And if we say that we love God and do not love others, we are liars and the truth is not in us (1 John 4:20).
Of course, the huge, monumental problem is “us.” We stand in the way of the gospel going forward. Our pride, our selfishness, our constant focus on our own needs and our own desires are what cause our problems and bring about our conflicts (James 4:1-3). We don’t need to do a better job loving ourselves, we need to do a better job at loving others with the same love and attention that we already have for ourselves (Phil 2:3-8).
Therefore, we don’t need to love less; we need to love more. We don’t need to keep people’s problems and weaknesses at a distance so much as we need to trust a sovereign God that He providentially designed these weaknesses and problems in others for us, for our sanctification; to grow us in holiness. My wife’s weaknesses and struggles are not only designed for her, they are also designed for me by a good God to shape me and mold me into Christ’s image. The sins and weaknesses of others around me … those in our church to whom I’m called to minister to, my friends, and my family … I shouldn’t be seeking to protect myself or to be self-sufficient so I won’t have to experience their negative and trying influence; I’m called to learn to trust Christ and find my satisfaction in Him through the process, throwing off any impediments to knowing and trusting Him (1 Cor 9:24, 2 Cor 10:5-6, Phil 3:7-11). God is trying to change my sinful, stubborn, selfish, prideful heart and help me to get my eyes off myself and learn to use His abundant comfort in my afflictions and suffering, so as to help me learn to comfort and help others with the same afflictions with the same comfort I’ve received (2 Cor 1:3-4).
As I experience their sins, weaknesses and flaws in the light of the glorious gospel of grace, it not only teaches me to be more patient, more loving, more kind, more sympathetic, and more committed to engaging them with the gospel of hope; it also reminds me of God’s grace and mercy towards me, a wicked sinner and once, an enemy of God, who has now been saved by grace. So it also wells up in me a sorrow for my own sin that put my Savior on the cross and it creates a deep gratefulness in me, that instead of heading to hell, by His grace I’m now heading to heaven. And in fact, these others are just like me, in need of His grace.
This gratefulness, this thankfulness, this grace of God to me, motivates me to love others more unto the gospel; not less. So, by His grace, I chose to engage in their mess; not run away or block them and their messiness from touching my life.
John the Baptist instructed us well, saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). And so, anything that God sends my way to help me to do this is a blessing, not a curse.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” ~ Jesus (John 16:33).
However, the problem with setting up boundaries is that it starts from a victim-centered approach. In other words, the basis laid out for discerning proper boundaries starts with the emotions of the victim and what the victim thinks he or she can handle or should have to handle. But rather than asking how much we feel we can handle, we should ask, “What does God require of me in this situation?”
Avoiding all difficulty could in fact prevent a victim from growing in wisdom in the midst of a trying circumstance (James 1:2–8), or from caring more about God’s commands than personal comfort.
In contrast to what we try to avoid, James actually calls his readers to face difficult experiences with joy (James 1:2). He tells his readers to see difficulties as times when their faith in God is being tested, and he goes on to say that as a consequence they will grow in patience and wisdom (James 1:3–5). Applying this principle to your own life as a Christian victim of divorce will undoubtedly be challenging, but it should also be encouraging as you learn that God has a good purpose for you in your trials. In other words, God will not let the trials that you suffered go to waste, but will use it for your good (Romans 8:28–29)