When Setting Boundaries Sets Me Free

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{I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.}
Psalm 119:32

I never thought boundaries could actually give me freedom.

But I’m learning they do.

I’ve recently needed to set some boundaries on my time and my commitments. Not because I wanted to. But because my husband asked me to. He noticed that weary look in my eyes and told me that my heart needed room for down time.

It felt constraining to not just do what I wanted to do – when I wanted to. Yet, it’s been good for me.

His limit-setting encouragement that felt so constraining reminded me of the day we realized our daughter Aster was getting tall enough to reach everything she wasn’t supposed to.  The day she discovered she could open the drawer where we keep scissors and safety pins. The day she was determined to touch every dangerous object in there.

That weekend we put child locks on the drawers and cabinets that were now within her reach. Although it seemed like we were taking freedom away from Aster, these new limits actually gave her more freedom to roam around the kitchen safely.

In Psalm 119:32, King David wrote about how he wanted to run in the path of God’s commands because they set his heart free.

Reading his words reminded me that boundary lines show us where it’s safe to go. So, I’m learning to embrace what may feel like limits, because within God’s boundaries my heart can rest… and roam free!

What are some boundaries you sense you need to set? Have you been resisting like me? I’d love to pray for you today and I could surely use some prayers, too. I’m not very good at setting boundaries, especially when it comes to taking care of me.

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.


  1. Hi Renee,

    I definitely need to set boundaries when it comes to letting people take advantage of me. I live with someone with a gambling problem and I can’t seem to tell them no when it comes to money. I am in terrible debt and he is still gambling running up my credit card bills, pay day loans, regular loans. I love him and can’t bear to leave him. I also cannot tell him no. I would rather make myself miserable by giving him the money than make myself miserable by not giving him the money. I can’t seem to tell anyone no and everyone know’s that. I don’t want to fight. I just want peace.

  2. I can definitely use help in this area. I wil lift special prayers for you and would love for you to pray for me in this area. I often feel like a small child throwing temper tantrums to get what I want even though I know it’s not what is best for me. It can be hard to accept that boundaries are good. I pray for submission to boundaries. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I feel I need to set boundaries on the things I make a commitment to do because it’s a good thing or Godly thing to do. I find when I set boundaries I can enjoy the things I’m doing with God instead of being busy just doing things. I had thought on boundaries yesterday after church how God gives us boundaries with his word and commandments to keep us on a path of peace and in his will but when we go outside of his boundaries we are often left without peace and seeking him to get us back in his will. Wishing you blessing in all you do. I hope that Confident Heart will be one of the online studies done in the near future. I know my heart needs it and would love to read it.

    • Hi Karen, thank you for sharing!! Praying for you this afternoon. I love how God was already speaking to you about this yesterday :).

      And I am going to offer an online study of A Confident Heart starting April 1st!! Hope that you are going to join me!!

  4. Not to make excuses, but probably most women need help in setting boundaries. Have been struggling with this myself.

  5. August Rose says:

    Hello Renee,
    I know how that feels. I am having to set boundaries as well. I am also having to speak up for myself. Its a little daunting at first but afterward I feel free. I have joined a women’s group at my church. I am also apprenticing to have my own women’s group. Where women will be meeting at my house for studying the Word, prayer and fellowship.I am being asked to do things last minute and it makes me cringe and feel so uneasy on the inside. I am speaking up in a tactful way but it seems to come across as I don’t want to do the last minute chores. I have to set these boundaries because I am a single parent of a 15 year old daughter. I want to have energy when she comes home from school and not feel bogged down or depleted in my energy after spending time making last minute group calls to 56 women. Regardless of how this may seem to others, I know my daughter needs me fresh and vibrant. I will be praying for you. I love feeling freedom in Christ! Thanks for letting me share. August Rose

    • August Rose- hang in there with your boundaries! I am a single parent too- for all but the first 6 months of my sons 30 years of life. You need to keep your priorities in order. Your child needs you to be her MOM. may God bless you and Renee for being vulnerable in this example of what God wants for us.

  6. Yes, I am in need of setting boundaries when it comes to working. Lately, I have discovered that I am a work-a-holic and it’s very difficult for me to take time away from the demands of two part time jobs (one being in our family business so it really is more full time then part). I’ve tried to quit both of the jobs I am doing but can’t seem to break away from either one of them and am really at a point where I can’t hear God’s voice giving me direction which way to go. I’d appreciate your prayers.

    Thanks for sharing, Renee and helping me continue to realize that I am not alone in this struggle. Mary

  7. This seriously could not have come at a better time… Thank you!!!
    Boundaries have always been a struggle for me… and I’m seeing the effects… not good!
    I’m tired of the guilt and exhaustion I’m feeling… please pray that God will open my eyes and my heart to see where I need to set boundaries and the strength to actually do it!!!

    Praying for you as well!!

  8. Good post Renee…echoes what God has been whispering to me, through my husband as well. Thankful for the wisdom He provides! Praying for you!

  9. Well, my question is why can’t I set boundaries, particularly when they have hurt me and my children financially. My former husband was ordered to pay alimony and has refused and I have given in for over two years thinking I am being patient and loving and merciful. Help !! pray that God will give me just the right words to write in hopes that we can set up a phone conversation to talk about his responsibilities in keeping his word.
    Thank you for your prayers as God knows my heart is wanting to please HIM and HE be glorified.

    • Praying for you Sharon. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries. It’s God’s will for you and your children to be taken care of. Jesus wants mercy and justice to hold hands. He knows your heart and it’s time for some tough love that forces your former husband to keep his commitment. If you have to get legal counsel then that isn’t wrong. Have you read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. It’s a very Godly book that is so helpful!!

  10. Prayer request..I have to be out by March 1st as they are closing my doors and selling my house..I have no place to go..I need prayers, I need strength to do this..I have been here since 1985 and now losing everything..thank you for those who will pray..God bless you!

  11. Renee! Your post today about boundaries was just for me! In taking care of me is my goal! I do see that I will have to set the boundaries to do this! Thankyou!

  12. Renee, Wow what timing. I’m trying to decide if I should add that 3rd Bible study class. I tell myself that God wants me to take time to have fellowship and study the Bible. I need to accept that everything else will fall into place. I’ve ordered your book ‘A Confident Heart’ and look forward to your Bible study in October.

  13. Hello Renee: This is perfect for me and where I am at in life.I am a wife, a mama of two, I just graduated in Jan. from Univ. Of Phoenix, work from home, very involved in ministry, pursuing adoption, and my heart aches to reach the broken hearted in a specific area, have a bible study at my home once a week……..but I know GOD is calling me to be still.
    Thank you as I sift and sort out!
    Blessings and I will be praying for you as well!
    U I O

  14. Rene, your post is on point. Setting boundaries–especially when taking care of ourselves–is so very hard for we women. We are hardwired by God and encouraged by society to take care of others first. This is not a bad thing of itself, but as we live in a fallen world, it gets warped. As with everything in our lives, this tendency needs to come under the redemptive power of Christ, imbued by God’s grace, in obedience to God’s Word, as Psalm 119 which you quote. Thank you, Renee. I will pray for you, for our dear sisters, as I ask you to pray for me, especially in keeping my priorities His priorities for my life. Living with passion and purpose, in Christ, Sandie

  15. Renee,
    Wow! When God wants me to hear something, he will say it to me in so many different ways/people, until I finally get it! I’ve recently been undergoing some boundary changes myself. It’s so hard to change old habits. I used to believe that being self-employed was such a free-flowing, easy going way to work. But I’ve recently discovered from the eyes of a stranger, that my boundary-less schedule was stressing me out and giving me anxiety that I didn’t even realize… I thought not having set work hours gave me Freedom. HA! no, becuase it meant that if I didn’t work when everyone else worked, then I would find myself working when everyone else, loved ones, were off having Fun! and I would miss out. It almost cost me a very dear relationship. We have boundaries for a reason… I felt such a huge burden lifted just KNOWING that it was a problem before I even implemented my new schedule. I’m not saying it’s easy! It’s very, very difficult and hard. but i’ve already been reaping some of the benefits. So I can’t wait until I’ve fully implemented my new schedule and it’s a routine!

  16. I am with you Sister Renee. I so need to set some boundaries and I am working on it like you. I day, one moment at a time. I need more rest in HIM and I prayer we both feel HIS call and directions for us. Hugs 🙂

  17. Definitely struggle with boundaries. Biggest area for me right now is my parents, especially my mom. My step dad died in July. I really feel I need to be there for my mom, but at the same time can’t be talking to her when I should be sleeping.

  18. Kimberly Onions says:

    Dear Renee,

    My heart beats in rhythm with yours regarding the need for us to set boundaries within our own lives and the ironic desire we often have to resist doing so. I grew up blessed as the daughter of an extraordinary woman who loved others before herself and the Lord with all her mind, heart, spirit and strength. Mom was the ultimate cheerleader always making everyone she met feel important, cared for and loved.

    My dad, two younger brothers, myself and even friends and strangers were richly blessed within mom’s loving ministrations. As we grew older the realization dawned upon me that even though mom’s loving attitude and smile never faded away completely she was often weary emotionally, physically and spiritually. Though the warmth of mom’s smile grew diminished at times the extent of her selfless gift of loving others never did.

    Most didn’t notice the weariness taking over mom. Not desiring to judge anyone I remain unsure if within their eagerness to receive all mom willingly gave away they simply did not notice, as your sweet husband did for you, mom’s heart needed room for down time. Within your wonderful testimony, and your husband’s wise counsel of love for you, it reminded me of how mom poured out so much love upon others she neglected to replenish her own love cup.

    This meant a loving yet weary mom who, though she served abundantly, over time grew understandably weak. Thus mom’s loving was at times poured out with diminished quality. As none of us are super human I fully respect what happened to mom. Mom’s own heart needed room for down time so her heart could receive the well-spring of God’s abundant overflow of love reviving and filling her back up.

    The depth and measure mom gave away was done with sacrificial love – she had no hidden agendas or self-absorbed reasons for giving – mom simply loved to serve and give. Sadly she ended up giving herself away to the point of dying unexpectedly in her early 50’s. Mom’s sudden death was a loss which rippled outward as she had served and touched so many lives with her selfless heart of love.

    Backtracking a bit Mom’s passing into glory with God was truly a blessing for her as it meant no more suffering. Mom’s early death was due to her not taking good care of herself within being dealt the lousy hand of unnecessary grief and despair. Sadly my dad had made the selfish choice to commit adultery with mom’s best friend of many years. His doing so destroyed her reason for living. Over time mom gave up on life and all of herself away to the point nothing was left.

    Your testimony reminded me of my own struggles over many years to set healthy boundaries too. My life story of giving myself away echoes moms. Mine is different in that within my search to love others God was absent from my life. After dad made his destructive choice to commit adultery he left the church and our family unraveled with him. I was ten years young. Having grown up with my family very involved within the church dad’s choice to backslide left our entire family adrift in confusion and heartbreak.

    My desire to love others led me to searching for love in too many faces and all the wrong places as the age old song lyrics speak. Thus many years later my life has included more than one marriage with each husband choosing to commit adultery. One ex-husband even did so with my then best friend. At the time my life was so out of kilter I remember actually wondering within the depth of pain and betrayal if it hurt more to lose my husband or my best friend.

    By God’s abundant saving mercy and grace I was reborn 07-31-93 after spending 30 years within a life desert of my own making. I had even sought out alternative religions and looked into cults during those empty years within my search to know love in truth. My desire was not to become a statistic of love as mom had been yet ironically I became one more than once. Life was soon to be radically changed when God blessed my ex-husband and me with a baby.

    My beautiful daughter – God’s girl – was born 07-31-93 at only 23 weeks gestation. She weighed just 1 lb – 7 ozs was only 11 1/2 ins long and given less than a 3% chance to live. God’s hand remained upon her from her first attempt to cry out in the ambulance, through her first five years of excessive OT/PT and many re-hospitalizations. God’s loving hand has remained upon her and her testimony to God’s power and love is extensive with all glory and honor to God.

    My daughter’s micro-preemie birth and fight to live was the catalyst which brought me back to God in full repentant measure. To this day I remain humbled and honored God choose me as the mom of my beloved daughter. My daughter beat all odds set against her to include cerebral palsy in her hands and ankles. She remains a success in all she does to include being involved within leadership at a nearby Christian university in her sophomore year.

    My comment has grown very long and I pray you forgive my sharing so extensively. I see how deeply intertwined my mom’s life and my life journeys are. Looking further back at my mom’s mother, my Grandmother’s life, the need to set boundaries is a tapestry woven with even deeper hues. Though it’s taken almost 40 years to see the truth in God about boundaries needed within my own life how blessed to finally understand how important they are. Also my need for the Lord to be who defines me within it all.

    How wonderful to finally realize when we commit to seek Gods word and Jesus’ love as our defining point within our own life journey’s we can be set free to fully live as God created us to. How grateful I am my daughter, by God’s grace, sees her need for healthy boundaries within her own life. How joy filled I am God opened my heart, mind and spirit to see we can serve and love others as Jesus yet not do so to the point our hearts are left without down time.

    May we remember to always seek God to define us, give our hearts the down time we need and allow God to fill up our love cups daily to overflowing with His amazing, abundant love.

    God’s richest eternal blessings upon you my lovely sister in Christ and your family I pray. God bless your ministry and thank you for serving so faithfully and obediently. Praise God for the love of your husband and his desire to care of you from his heart of love for God.

    Hugs love and joy in Jesus,

  19. Lori Dean says:

    Yes!!! This is what the Lord and I have been walking through the last year…especially in my “Wonderful”marriage. My progress is slow, but I am getting it, getting the log out of my own eye has been………..tough.The ” Boundaries” series, by Townsend and Cloud, is so thorough,&gives you a strong Biblical foundation, and keeps the “Holier than Thou’s” in check. (NOT that I struggled with that …..Ahem….) and helps you STAND…with love and restoration in tow.
    God is Good……
    Praying for us all…

  20. My prayer for you…

    Dear Lord, I lift up this wonderful godly women, Renee and ask that you give her the courage to continue setting boundaries on her time. Lord you blessed her with a wonderful husband and beautiful children. We praise you for these blessings! Help her to feel Your love and impress on her that You desire for her to enjoy the gift of her family. Time flies as I surely know and children grow up and leave the nest. Remind her also that we need rest to be able to do our best for you. I praise you Father God that she has a husband that loves her and watches over her! In Jesus name I pray, Amen

  21. Thank you so much for you message today. You are an answer to a prayer I have been praying for. I know this may sound funny to you but I need prayer on how to set discipline on my TV time and concentrate on my reading time. I have so many wonderful Christian books that would help me so much but I’ve never liked to read and it’s gotten worse through the years. My mom worked when we were home at night and slept while we were at school. Dad never got passed the 5th grade so school didn’t mean much to him and my mom moved around so much that each year she had to start a new school and that didn’t mean she would finish the year in that school. TV has just been a thing for me. It was there when things were tough. I could imagine I lived in one of those homes with loving,, caring people who where happy together. My older sister loved to read. She would check whole shelves out at a time. That was her escape. Anyway getting bac to my prayer request. Please pray with me that I would find joy and love and devote my time to reading these great books especially the Bible. I even have the TV on at night because I don’t want to be by myself. Thanks so much. Your friend. Sharon

  22. This is just what I needed today! Thank you so much for sharing. I have just started a new job and I feel so overwhelmed! I am trying to learn so much in a busy office and I don’t want to fail. When I get too stressed I also cannot hear from God. My mind feels to cluttered and full of other things to hear Him. I pray that I will do only what I can and communicate effectively when asking for help. I pray that I will be able to learn and not feel like I should know everything immediately. I pray for the other ladies that we would all find our perfect balance by putting God first.

  23. Hello Renee,
    Loved the photo of you and Aster that posted recently. Will be praying that setting boundaries will happen for you step by step prayers by prayer, and pray you see God presence with you all the way.
    I’m a single mom who’s oldest daughter has autism. For many of her 37 yrs I was married to a man who said he loved the Lord, but after 26 yrs he decided that and marriage to me were not to be. God brought me through that and some other interesting adventures over the years. and i am thankful to have such a perfect Father in him.
    I too have begun to set boundaires, besides my daughter who actually has taught me more than i will ever teach her, i care for my grandsons. so my time gets full fast. i found myself reacting rather than acting so between your book A Confident Heart & Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, you girls have so encouraged this grandma to hang in there with my Lord.
    Lord, help your daughters to place themselves in your arms first and guide us as we set boundaries to be free in You! Amen!

  24. Hi Renee,

    Thank you for your post and providing us with a forum to explore the topic of boundaries. I can relate to your situation and to many of the other posts as well.

    For me, the scariest part of setting boundaries is fear of loss. It could be loss of a person’s love or affection, loss of my reputation at work, or even loss of a job or relationship depending on how strongly one toes the line. In my mind, boundaries always feel so black and white.

    However, I believe I am learning that there can be a gracious way to set boundaries that in the end ends up blessing everyone. (Although I certainly appreciate that this is not the case in every situation.) That through prayer, patience, ongoing communication, tolerating awkwardness and mis-steps, and learning how to speak the truth in LOVE, there can be ways to negotiate healthy boundaries that benefit both sides and help us to grow. But this is definitely still a training ground for me!

    Renee, one thing I love about your posts is that they are always so timely that I know it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to me / cheering me on! Like many of the other women, God has been bringing up the issues of boundaries to me loudly and clearly of late. I will certainly pray for you and the other women who have shared their struggles and growing pains in this area. Thank you for praying for my spiritual growth as well. Confident Heart has certainly been an important part of it.


  25. Confirmed loud and clear…… thank you…..it is time for me too..Heavenly Father is so Great!!!!

  26. Debra Frost says:

    God knows our hearts and minds. i will pray that God will help us see that boundaries can really be good for us, although it is so hard to set them. God bless all of us today. Thank you Renee!

  27. The Father has been speaking to me about knowing when to speak/share and when to be quiet and not share because everything he whispers in my ears/my heart is not for everyone; some of the nuggets he drops in my spirit are especially for me ALONE!!!. This is HARD for me because whenever He speaks to me I just want to go tell everybody. I will definitely pray for you and I hope you will pray for me. Thanks

  28. Shannon Steckel says:

    Yes, I had to pray hard for two kinds of boundaries one was overstepping someone else boundaries but thankfully they forgave me and are praying for me. In addition, I had to pray for 2 different Bible Studies that I would like to join but God is calling me by the word of discernment for the next one. I almost said no but the word discernment just keeps creeping up and it’s the heartfelt. In addition, I was baptized as an infant being Catholic but have changed churches for God was leading me there and now as an adult I want to make that choice. I have been fighting this for about a year so the time is here. However, I am nervous due to my parents before they were married my mom was a nun and my dad was a priest. However, God has called me a different way. I know they gave me their blessing and they have see the change in me too..So, I need help in this area in boundaries finally seeing it and working on it and it is improving…of course with God’s help.

    • Just wanted to share that about a week an 1/2 ago. I made the decision to be Baptized again. I know my parents didn’t come due to another road they took. However, it is the best decision I have ever made and the Holy Spirit is opening my eyes to many areas of my life but I’m working on one at a time. I know some may not agree with this statement but I know in my heart God lead me to this decision.

  29. thank you for your message, I needed to hear that. As I prayed for you, I was thankful that you have a blessed husband as AJ to know what you need and to lovingly suggest your boundaries. that is awesome!

    If you get any more prayer time would you pray that I would know how to say no better. I am a servent and I love to serve and help people. that is where I receive my blessings. but sometimes….I help others more than I do myself and I suffer from that decision.

  30. Brooke Richardson says:

    Its so funny that I’m just reading this. I was just talking to my husband about having a “bottom line” “boundary setting”. I am 24 with 2 kids and my dad has went to jail again this is probably his 5th time in the last couple years. The last time he got out I told him if he goes back in I will NOT be visiting him, because it effects my own family negatively. But recently I had a dream that my father died of a heart attack and I was crying uncontrollably for days on end in my dream, because I had not visited or even wrote my dad and I felt so horrible. So I have been anxios and feeling bad about not going to visit him thinking now, what if something does happen and I havent even seen him one last time? I need prayer PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! I’m lost on what to do. But i watch intervention all the time and they always say you need to have your “bottom line” and keep that bottom line. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  31. Annette K. says:

    I am very good at doing what I can for others and trying to be there for others. But I don’t take care of me very well. I don’t take time for me cause I am doing something for someone else. So I need to manage my time better, and learn that it is okay to use that two letter word “no” sometimes… I will be praying for you, it is great your husband saw that you needed to set boundries.
    Thank you for your prayers in return..

  32. Sandra Hingst says:

    Thank you for this message. My husband isn’t with us right now, so I can’t leave him a ‘post it’. However, I have been asking God to help me forgive him of all the wounds/hurts he has caused over our 11 years of marriage.

  33. Hello,
    Thank you for graciously offering to pray for us in this area. I need to know how to present to my 17-year-old that boundaries will give him freedom because right now, he believes it takes away his freedom. I’m finding it very difficult to explain to him why he shouldn’t watch certain things, play certain video games, listen to certain music, etc. Can you offer any ideas on how to do this?

  34. I will say some prayers. I am awful at setting boundaries. I need to set boundaries in my relationship. It has gotten really bad, I feel hurt and lost most of the time. I feel lost and alone. I am hurting so much, Please some prayers, I know God is there but I’m not feeling it. How do I feel his presence?

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