God’s Blessings through Setting Boundaries

by Lysa TerKeurst

Have you ever found yourself having an out-of-control reaction in response to someone else’s out-of-control actions?

I understand. It’s all so very hard.

When I share biblical discernment with someone I love, but then they go away and do the opposite, it’s maddening. My bottled-up wisdom in the midst of their chaos produces extreme anxiety. My resulting reaction is not me being dramatic or overly emotional … I’m simply trying to save us both from the impending train wreck I can see so obviously headed our way!

A perfect example would be the two gallon-sized baggies stuffed full of ripped-up papers currently sitting on my dresser. Why do I have baggies of ripped papers? So glad you asked.

Some important documents came in the mail one day. In my defense, my name was included on the envelope. But the minute I opened the envelope and started reading through the contents, my blood pressure skyrocketed. One of my people was moving forward with something I deeply disagreed with. I had absolutely vocalized my many reasons to shut down this idea. I couldn’t believe they weren’t listening to me.

In hindsight, I should have simply reminded my family member of my boundary to not bail them out financially if this decision was as detrimental as I thought it would be.

Instead, I just stood there in my kitchen and slowly tore those papers into as many tiny pieces as I could. And when every last paper was torn, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I also tore the folders they were in and the mailing envelopes as well. I quietly stuffed all the mess into the baggies and sat them on the counter with a note that read, “This is all I have to say about this situation.”

It felt so good in that moment. But the next morning, I woke up and was like, Really, Lysa?! Really?! All my family member said back to me was, “Wow, you’ve made quite a statement.” Now I was the one who needed to apologize and figure out a way to tell the company needing to resend the papers I accidentally, on purpose, in a crazed moment, shredded. And when I did, the lady who worked at that company told me she’d recently read one of my books. Perfect. Wonderful. Ugh.

Controlling ourselves cannot be dependent on our efforts to control others.

I know I have hyperextended my capacity when I shift from calm words to angry tirades. I shift from blessing to cursing. I shift from peace to chaos. I shift from discussing the papers to ripping them to shreds and putting them in baggies. I shift from trusting God to trying to fix it all myself.

What do I need to do in response to situations that feel so out of control that they make me lose my self-control?

Establish boundaries. Boundaries aren’t to push others away. Boundaries are to help hold me together.

The truth is, without good boundaries, other people’s poor choices will bankrupt your spiritual capacity for compassion. Not to mention the fact that at some point, you’ll get so exhausted and worn down that you’ll lose your self-control because they are so out of control.

You’ll sacrifice your peace on the altar of their chaos. Soon you will get swept into a desperate urgency to get them to stop! Right! Now! And we all know acts of desperation hold hands with degradation. I’m preaching to myself because I’ve got the tendency to downgrade who I really am in moments of utter frustration and exhaustion when I don’t keep appropriate boundaries.

It all makes me think of today’s key verse: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered” (Proverbs 17:27).

When we understand that only God can bring about true change in another person’s heart and life, it frees us from all of our panic-induced attempts to control them. We can love them. Pray for them. Try to share godly wisdom with them. But we don’t have to downgrade our gentleness to hastily spoken words of anger and resentment. We don’t have to downgrade our attitude of reconciliation to acts of retaliation. We can use our words with restraint and stay even-tempered because we’re ultimately entrusting them to the Lord.

I know this isn’t easy, sweet friend. But it is wise.

It’s for the sake of our sanity that we draw necessary boundaries. It’s for the sake of stability that we stay consistent with those boundaries. And it’s with a heart of humility that maintaining those boundaries becomes a possibility.

Lord, please forgive me for all the times I’ve tried to step into Your place in the lives of the people I love. Today, I’m releasing my loved ones into Your hands. You are their Savior, not me. Show me anywhere I need to draw healthy boundary lines, and help me maintain them with humility and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (ESV)

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