Restrained for Greatness

Welcome to Real Life.  This week's blog is a guest post by my friend Maureen Zappala. She asks, "Have you ever felt frustrated by restrictions?"

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, 
but of power, love, and self-discipline.[1]

Self-discipline. What comes to mind when you hear that word? I don’t know about you, but that word can make me crazy! It speaks of restraint. Limits. Boundaries. I'm not a fan of restraints, limits or boundaries.

But, what if restraints didn't exist? Are they good in some cases? I was a research engineer for NASA. There, in the Propulsion Systems Laboratory we conducted tests on full scale jet engines with thrust of 30,000 pounds of force. That's power! To test them, they had to be secured with restraints. These NEVER diminished the significance or purpose of the engine. They enhanced it. With the engine held in place, we could study its effects and feel its power. The restraints increased the wonder and marvel of that machine.

Restraints don't diminish glory. They enhance it.

Limits are good. God thinks so. Even in the perfect Garden of Eden, he deemed one tree off limits. And God didn’t just call the garden good, he called it VERY GOOD. In God’s economy, restraint equals moral integrity. 

Then, why do I think restraints are bad? Have you ever been told, “No! You cannot have, go, be, do…” It leaves me feeling limited, even diminished. I’m held back, muzzled, shut down. It is frustrating! 

King David was familiar with frustrating restrictions. As a young man, he was anointed to be the next King of Israel. Yet for fifteen years he lived as a fugitive. Saul, the current king was jealous of David and wanted him dead. Once, King Saul wandered into the exact cave where David was hiding. David could have easily killed him and justified it.[2] But, he would not. He waited on God and willingly accepted his lot, his limitations. In God’s timing, David became the most famous and loved king of Israel.

I want to be like David! I want to be content where I am - convinced of God's perfect timing for my life - knowing that even my restrictions will be used for His glory. David declared: 
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.[3]
I want to love my boundaries. But sometimes I don't. I complain. I feel insignificant. I have been a speaker on a national platform before large audiences. Currently, I need to be a stay-at-home mom. Though I often feel restrained and limited, I must do the next right thing. Do laundry. Make lunches. Drive the carpool. I don’t want to be concerned with the significance of the task, but the significance of the task-master. There can be glory and greatness in the most menial tasks. It is all work that must be done. Stepping into the servant role is the mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Though he was God, he took on the role of servant to save us. Not only did it need to be done, but he had a view of the bigger picture. 

So I pray for contentment. I pray for faith like David. I don’t want to seek self-actualization, but self-surrender. 

Therefore, I will not resist the restraints. I will not fight the limits. I will accept where I am right now. I will trust that God knows exactly what he's doing. He is not diminishing me. He is enhancing me, for his glory! 

Maureen Zappala is an award winning speaker, presentation coach, and founder of High Altitude Strategies, where she helps people to connect their passion to God’s purpose. She is a former NASA propulsion engineer, and currently teaches the junior high girls Sunday School class at Grace CMA church in Middleburg Heights. She’s a member of Toastmasters International, and in August 2009, she placed in the top ten of 30,000 contestants in the World Championship of Public Speaking Contest. She lives with her husband and two middle school children in Hinckley, Ohio. You can contact her by email or visit her website at

[1] 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
[2] 1 Samuel 24
[3] Psalm 16:5


  1. Well-spoken of a truth that all of us know. It takes time, age, and wisdom to accept and understand the beauty of restraints and how much God loves us by giving them to us. Enjoyed reading this piece and I hope you will daily find the wonder in God's plan to have you stay at home for a season. With a career like yours, it must be difficult. God bless.

  2. Hi,

    I enjoyed your article. It made me look at how I look at restraints and I must say that we differ on some things,but that is okay. You see , restraints could be obstacles that you are to overcome. In such casses, I believe that God wants us to find the contentment in him, and overcome those things that are hindering us from moving further. For example, I if had listened to everyone who was telling me to forget writing, I would not be a writer today. There are other situations also where I believe that God calls you out and when he does, things become uncomfortable for you, because you are struggling against restraints that others have placed on you and you have to break those bonds to move ahead. I agree that people should be content with their lives, but in my opinion contentment only comes when you are living out God's purpose for your life.
    Thank you for a very interesting article that challenged my own thinking about restraints.

  3. Good points, Patricia! I'll make sure Maureen sees your comments. Thanks for writing.

  4. Thanks Patricia. I don't think we don't disagree at all. We are perhaps just looking at restraints vs roadblocks. I completely agree that sometimes a roadblock is indeed intended to stimulate growth and trust in God, and allow us to flex our "overcoming muscle." I once heard a quote (which I cannot recall verbatim) that says something like "I'd rather be an overcomer than to never have had the chance to overcome." I'm sure I butchered the exact quote, but the thought is the same: Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger. :)

    I would consider a restraint a much stronger restriction. Maybe it's a contract. Or A promise. or A physical issue. Or An authority issue.

    It's interesting that you use the example of people telling you to forget writing, calling that a restraint. I would call that a roadblock, because you have freedom to act, you can find way around it that still glorifies God, and is consistent with how he wired you. However, if I tell my daughter that she cannot shave her head and pierce her lips, navel and tongue, because she's only 11, that's a restraint. She's under my authority, and doesn't have legitimate freedom to do what she wants.

    Hmmm...maybe I should give more thought to this restraint vs roadblock idea. Thank you!

    1. And by the way, my daughter did NOT ask to shave her head, nor pierce her lips, navel or tongue!!!!! :)


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