Understanding One’s Limitations (Exodus 33:18-23)

The first time I performed CPR on a person was in my freshman year in college. During my certification classes, I performed CPR on a dummy. It was realistic, but I often wondered how it compared to the actual experience.  A few years later, I would find out when I volunteered in an emergency room at a hospital located close to my college campus. The majority of my duties centered upon greeting patients who had non-urgent medical complaints. I would take a brief history, check their temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. As a premed, this experience was an excellent opportunity to experience direct patient care and shadow physicians and was an invaluable experience in confirming my decision to apply to medical school.

One day, a very ill patient was admitted to our emergency room, unconscious and suffering from a heart attack. As the paramedics wheeled the patient in on a gurney, they were performing CPR. As care was transferred to our team, the attending physician looked at me and said, “Do you want to perform the CPR?” I nodded and quickly switched positions with the paramedic who was doing the chest compressions. I continued for several minutes, pausing for a few seconds as the defibrillator was engaged and the EKG reviewed. The patient never awoke and a few minutes later, the lead physician called the code and pronounced the patient.

It was a jarring experience and I was upset for several days. It was the first time I had ever used my CPR and the first time I had ever seen anyone die. As I reflected upon the events, I wondered if my technique was to blame? I wondered about who this patient was. I even questioned whether medicine was the correct career choice for me. In spite of my best efforts and that of the emergency room team, this patient did not live.

An important first step before embarking upon a career or task is understanding one’s limitations. Medicine has made tremendous advances and the diagnostic tools and treatments have revolutionized the management of many diseases, once considered terminal and hopeless. Nonetheless, there is still much more to learn. Like my patient whom I was unable to resuscitate, I reluctantly accepted my limitations. This sad experience helped me to change my perspective and understanding of what a physician could do. It was the beginning of my pathway to a career in medicine, one that still challenges my understanding of my limitations of what I can do for my patients. Are there any spiritual limitations with God?

Then Moses said, “Please, let me see your glory.” He said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘the LORD’ before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But he added, “You cannot see my face, for humans cannot see me and live.” The LORD said, “Here is a place near me. You are to stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take my hand away, and you will see my back, but my face will not be seen.”

Exodus 33:18-23 (CSB)

Moses had a very close and intimate relationship with God, the Father. Yet, he wanted more and boldly asked God to allow him to see His face. God limited what Moses would be able to see, only allowing him to view His backside. Even Moses, the man whom God chose to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt, needed to understand his limitations. God is too pure and too holy for any sinful person to look at His face and live. 

When we understand and accept our spiritual limitations, we gain a better understanding of who God, our Creator, is. His thoughts are not our thoughts nor are His ways our ways.  


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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