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Andrea Anderson Polk’s Blog

Clinically Practiced, Biblically Informed

  • Writer's pictureAndrea Anderson Polk

When Jesus Had a Firm Boundary + So Can You

Updated: Jul 12

Praying hands resting on an open Bible in this article on having a firm boundary.

Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the day or I need a word of encouragement, I pull out my Bible and randomly open it. It’s something I’ve done since high school and the Bible always lands on the exact scripture verse I need. I’m a little embarrassed sharing this with you because it feels a bit immature or childish. Yet, it’s been a powerful practice for me over the years. I can get into a habit of overthinking when I’m feeling anxiety and stress, so it’s a simple way to get out of my head and into something tangible and concrete. It works!

Every. Single. Time.

It’s like a language the Holy Spirit and I share. I know that I know it’s Him speaking a word directly to my soul. I’m amazed at how accurate the exact scripture is to my present challenge and how it absolutely hits the bullseye of my heart. I feel a jolt of encouragement as I experience how Jesus is alive and present in my life. He intimately cares about my specific situation.

Yesterday I had an unusually busy day and I started to feel stressed about all the demands ahead of me even though they were all good things. But stress is stress, you know?

Anyway, I opened my Bible, and it landed on Matthew 15:28 (NKJ version):

“Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”

I got goosebumps, smiled, and immediately felt uplifted. As if Jesus was saying the words directly to me: I see your faith. I honor you reaching out to me for help today. I will give you your desire. I got the confidence and inner strength I desired to face the day knowing Jesus was with me.

This morning in my quiet time I decided to study this passage of scripture in context and discovered something I’d never focused on or realized prior…

Jesus had firm boundaries!

And He dealt with the pressure of people-pleasing.

Notice in the passage how Jesus felt pressure from both the woman and from His disciples. Here is The Message version (Matt.15:21-28):

From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.”

Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.”

Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.”

Then the woman came back to Jesus, dropped to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.”

He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”

She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”

Jesus gave in. He was moved by her faith and persistence. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.

That particular day, Jesus was fulfilling His ministry duties with “the lost sheep of Israel” and was not willing to help this woman. The Bible says that Jesus “ignored her” and “refused” the disciple’s request to “take care of her” because she was “driving them crazy.” At first, I felt, that’s kind of mean, Jesus! And not very “Christ-like.” HaHa. A little faith humor for you.

The freedom for me is that Jesus was human. He had limited capacity. He couldn’t meet the needs of everyone who came to Him for help.

I also appreciate the realness and frustration of the disciples who were bothered by the woman and probably tired, so they needed Jesus to take care of her. Jesus responded, “I’ve got my hands full.” It appears He was confident about His boundaries and knew His purpose for the day. He did not give into the pressure of people-pleasing from His disciplines or from the woman who clearly needed his help.

Yet, as you can see at the end of the passage, Jesus had a change of heart because He did help the woman after all: “He was moved by her faith and persistence.” But it was clearly not His norm. He had firm boundaries and would not let anyone interfere. It appears Jesus did not help the woman out of obligation, but because He was moved by her faith and was inspired by her persistence.

I can hear some of you now, “well, Andrea – I’m not Jesus. He was healing people and performing miracles.” To that I say, whatever your purpose is, do not minimize it. You are here for a reason. I think Jesus would be sad if you felt insignificant in His kingdom, no matter what your unique role is. Ministry, motherhood, or a career.

Having boundaries around your purpose and knowing what your priorities are, I believe, helps with people-pleasing and being OK with being disliked or disappointing people. I don’t want my need to be needed or liked to diminish God’s purpose for the people He has called me to help. If I guilt myself into helping others out of obligation and not inspiration, it’s not really helping them.

I find validation from Jesus’s firm boundaries and refusal to people-please. And from the disciple’s annoyance and frustration. And from the woman’s vulnerable request and her courage in not taking no for an answer. I think a part of us can personally relate to all three experiences.

In your corner of the world…

Who are the people you feel Jesus is calling you to right now?

What is the work you need to make a priority above all else?

How can you set firm boundaries and say no to other things and relationships without feeling selfish, guilty, or mean about it?

Who is a safe person to vent to about the people who, like the disciples, are driving you crazy!?

And allow yourself to be flexible about making a boundary exception when you feel led to or inspired every once and a while?

What is your “desire” that you need Jesus to fulfill? Be persistent with your faith in asking Him. Be the “your faith is something else woman!”

What a gift that in our present-day life, Jesus is always available to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains to the disciples in John chapter 14 (The Amplified Bible, version):

“The Father will give you another Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby, that He may remain with you forever.” (v 16)

“The Spirit of Truth lives with you constantly and will be with you.” (v 17)

“The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my place, to represent Me and act on My behalf. He (the Holy Spirit) will teach you all things.” (v 26)

Well, the Holy Spirit definitely taught me something today in my quiet time and for that I am grateful.

P.S. Please excuse any typos and grammatical errors. I felt inspired because this realization was too good not to share with you - hoping you find encouragement. I’m embracing my humanness over here on the other side of your screen. So, I did not have the capacity to proofread. I had to ignore that pressure to people-please, set a boundary for myself, and move on with my purpose to help my people for the day!

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Andrea Anderson Polk is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified, registered clinical supervisor, and certified professional coach. She has a private practice in Northern Virginia with nearly 20 years of clinical experience helping hundreds of clients on their healing journey.

She is driven by a deep calling to help ambitious women of faith experience healing and breakthrough so they can live each day with peace and purpose. 

Andrea believes healing happens through relationship. The wounds that occur in a relationship must be healed in a relationship. Andrea invites you into a life-altering relationship.

Work with Andrea one-one- by contacting her here.


Andrea has spent her career studying the human experience and has developed a fascinating analogy that compares cuckoo birds, nature’s master manipulator and imposter, to situations and relationships that leave us feeling drained, confused, lost, and empty. Her new book, The Cuckoo Syndrome, helps us fend off the cuckoos, the unhealthy relationships, toxic thinking, and self-sabotaging behaviors in our life that never truly satisfy the deep longings of our souls and the desires of our hearts. 

Andrea’s clinically proven, innovative method helps us recover the lost pieces of ourselves, discover meaning in suffering, and transform our pain into purpose by teaching us to uncover the truth of who we are and who God is so we can be healed and live free. 

Purchase the book Andrea’s clients call “a life-changing breakthrough” for yourself and the people you care about today.

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If you….

Feel internal pressure to do all things well. 

Tend to neglect your needs to please others and search for validation.

Continually attract toxic or one-sided relationships leaving you drained. 

Want to build a life that is unashamedly true to who you are and what you want.


Then…this is the time to reclaim your JOY, ENERGY, AND TIME so you can live each day with peace and purpose!


Curious to know how?

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