FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Navigating Life’s Limitations: David & Meg Robbins with Shelby Abbott

with Brant Hansen, Dave Wilson, David and Meg Robbins, Heather Holleman, Jeremiah Johnston, Lysa TerKeurst | December 19, 2023
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Struggling to say no? Embracing your limitations can feel overwhelming. David & Meg Robbins, Shelby Abbott, Brant Hansen, Jeremiah Johnston, Lysa TerKeurst, and Heather Holleman all share insights on how life's challenges introduce the need for learning new boundaries. Join us to discover ways to accept your limitations amidst life's chaos.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Struggling to say no? Embracing your limitations can feel overwhelming. David & Meg Robbins, Shelby Abbott, Brant Hansen, Jeremiah Johnston, Lysa TerKeurst, and Heather Holleman all share insights on how life's challenges introduce the need for learning new boundaries. Join us to discover ways to accept your limitations amidst life's chaos.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Struggle to say no? Accepting limitations? Insights from David & Meg Robbins, Shelby Abbott, Brant Hansen, Jeremiah Johnston, Lysa TerKeurst, Heather Holleman as they learn to navigate life’s chaos.

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Navigating Life’s Limitations: David & Meg Robbins with Shelby Abbott

With Brant Hansen, Dave Wilson, D...more
December 19, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today. My name is Shelby Abbott, and we’re here with some very special guests today.

Dave: What’s this show called?

Shelby: It’s called—


Dave: —Family—

Shelby:FamilyLife Today!


Dave: Okay.

Shelby: You might be familiar with it, Dave Wilson! [Laughter]

Ann: Yay!

Shelby: And Ann Wilson.

Ann: We’re all excited to be together.

Shelby: Yes, happy to have you here.

Dave: Ann just gave me a look like,” You are ruining this show!” [Laughter] You know what? That’s what I do.

Shelby: It’s just another day.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.

Shelby: In addition to the Wilsons, we’re here with the Robbinses!

David: Yes!

Shelby: David and Meg Robbins, the President of FamilyLife.

David: Here to mess it up even more!

Ann: Yay!

Meg: Good to be here.

Shelby: As I said, I’m Shelby Abbott, and we’re back again today highlighting some of the best moments on our program from the past year in 2023.

Dave: Do you know what I think we should do next year?

Shelby: What’s that?

Dave: The worst moments. [Laughter] What do you think?

David: That would be fun.

Dave: This might be one of them right now.

Shelby: Maybe!

Ann: Maybe we should do all the outtakes.

Shelby: Highlights of the highlights.

Well, today’s theme is accepting your limitations. You know, we all have limitations; we all have them. We just don’t always want to accept them, [coughing and talking under breath], Dave. [Laughter] But, with that in mind.

Dave: I’m feeling picked on.

Shelby: Accepting your limitations is something we want to kick things off with today and collaborate with it with a familiar voice, Mr. Brant Hansen. We’ve had him on plenty of times on FamilyLife Today. Brant was actually on the program yesterday, and will be on tomorrow through Friday, describing how he’s come o appreciate his own physical limitations as a way God has made him unique and, frankly, more interesting. He is an interesting guy!

Dave: Oh, yes.

Shelby: So, here’s part of our conversation with Brant Hansen:

[Previously recorded audio]

Ann: I’ve been in ministry a long time with women, and there was this one situation where there were three women. People were (I could tell) kind of running from them. There was an awkwardness in the conversations. So, my friend and I said, “Let’s pray about these three women.”

We ended up praying, “Lord, what do you want us to know? How can we minister to these women?” Because it felt like they were pushing people away in some circumstances. As I went to prayer, I said, “Lord, what do You think of them?” This thought came to my mind, and I felt like it was from God: “Aren’t they delightful?!”

Brant: Yes!

Ann: I started to cry, because I thought, “Of course, that's what You would say, God. They are delightful to You!”

Brant: Yes, right.

Ann: “And You see the beauty in who they are. You're celebrating how You've created them.” I think that, if we would just take some time to say, “God, what do You want us to know? What do You want us to do?” we would find that God delights in the misfits.

Brant: That's right. And on a personal level, I talked about my wife and how we met. She's really glad that she took the time to get to know me. She thinks I'm a really good husband.

Ann: We think you're pretty great, too.

Brant: I just use that as an example!

Dave: Yes.

Brant: You don’t know!

Ann: Yes.

Brant: She could have been like, “He's a little odd.” But having a high quirk tolerance, these people are delightful. It's wonderful. You know what? I had a coworker say something one time, which is going to sound strange, like, “Why was that moving to you?” But there are three of us on the morning show, and the guy talked to this coworker of mine, this lady. He said, “What's the deal with Brant this morning?”

I don't even know what I was doing. I didn't have a problem. [Laughter] I just looked too intense, or I said something too bluntly on accident. She said, “That's just Brant.”

When I heard that she had said that—now that sounds insulting, but it wasn't. It was like, “Thank you.” Just be my friend.

Ann: Yes.

Brant: It's so much energy to try to be normal. And if you can be yourself and somebody can have a little bit of tolerance for quirk and they say, “That's Brant. We love him.” Thank you! That makes me feel comfortable. It’s very rare! And you don't have to be on the spectrum; you could just be a little odd in whatever way, whatever wonderful way, to experience and know what I'm talking about. The relief of that. It's so exhausting to try to do normal stuff.

Dave: And boy, when a parent says that to his son or daughter—

Brant: —yes.

Dave: —that's a word of life.

Ann: Yes.

Brant: Totally.

Dave: “I love my son (or daughter). That's who they are, and that's beautiful.”

Brant: There was a doctor who made diagnoses. I can’t remember who it was, but it was in one book about Asperger’s, back when we used that term. He said, when he made the diagnosis, he would tell teenagers or whatever, “Congratulations! You have Asperger’s.”

Dave: Wow! [Laughter]

Brant: I embody that in my life.

Ann: Yes!

Brant: I like it! I like it. I like people who are on the spectrum. I’m biased. [Whispering] I think you’re more interesting! [Laughter] Normal people doing all the same stuff—I’m biased, but congratulations! The Lord is good.

Ann: That’s good for parents to here, too, who have kids who are there: “Congratulations!”

Brant: Yes! “Congratulations! You are ready—you’re going to go through some heartbreak.”

Ann: Yes.

Brant: “You’re going to go through some awesome stuff! You’re going to be so thankful you have that kid!”

Ann: That’s so good!


Shelby: You know, that’s not the knee-jerk reaction of most parents when they hear stuff like that; but it’s often—the inverted principles of the Kingdom; how God works, and how He can take things that might seem like horrible news and turn it into something that is wonderful; a super-power, even.

So, Meg, I want you to describe a little bit of your experience with one of your sons having some health challenges and limitations, and what a great young man he’s become.

Meg: Well, our oldest has a chronic illness that he was diagnosed with right after he was born. Honestly, we found out when I was pregnant, at that 20-week ultrasound, when you think you’re going in to see that everything’s going great. You know, we could just tell right away from the ultrasound tech that things weren’t all great. But it kind of launched—I would say both of us, but we had come in separate cars to that appointment.

I got in that car and was going home by myself, and it was like the Lord just said to me, “I don’t make mistakes.” [Talking to David] You actually had a similar experience.

David: Yes, I remember walking to the office a few days later, and I was really wrestling with, “Will this mean his life may be shortened?” And the Holy Spirit, in the same, pretty profound, way, said, “There is no shortened life. I number everyone’s days.”

Meg: And I think, just with time, and really, in his first few years of life, we felt the Lord put on our hearts to celebrate every aspect of how God made him, including this disease that he, unless a cure comes along (which it hasn’t), then he’s going to be dealing with that.

I love what Brant was saying: celebrating who you are and who God’s made you to be. It’s like that one little thing that you might hear as a parent, that you think, “Oh, it’s going to be so hard!” It’s like, “That doesn’t have to completely define who you are, but it’s part of who you are. Celebrate that part of you, too!”

But anyway, just seeing him really having to face, “Okay, this could mean hard, hard days ahead.” And like David said, what may seem like a shortened life, but God numbers our days. Just seeing Ford continually come back to that place of trust.

David: Yes, he’s owning it and trusting the Lord with it. And there’s been a new wave. There’s been a fresh complication this past week that’s meant a whole other layer of treatments that’s pretty involved every day, and he’s learning that this week. Just to see him maturely say, “And I want to trust God with that. He’s been faithful in the past. He’ll do it again.” It’s a treat to watch your kid trust the Lord.

Shelby: Yes. You know, a lot of us would not pick the things that we have struggled with in our lives. I would never have picked “crippling nerve pain” from a list in order to figure out how I can grow closer to God, but that’s ended up being the thing that has brought me the most close to God.

Not everybody has something like a diagnosis like Cystic Fibrosis or is on the spectrum, but what’s far more common, I’ve found, especially dealing with young people and interacting with the next generation—and, honestly, with people even in my church (and grownups)—is the element of anxiety.

It’s all around us. Anxiety and depression are really crushing our culture right now. It’s not just non-Christians or even immature Christians. In fact, we had a Bible scholar, Jeremiah Johnston, on the program this year. And by the way, Dave and Ann, phenomenal programs with Jeremiah this past Easter on FamilyLife Today, about the evidence of the resurrection. Those were fantastic! But we had Dr. Johnston on the program to talk about his own battle with debilitating anxiety. Listen to this:

[Previously recorded audio]

Jeremiah:  Through an interesting series of unrelated events, I began to realize I was struggling with the debilitating anxiety. And I have a high capacity. I work eight days a week. I'm used to—you know, I haven't slept in six years, since the triplets were born. [Laughter] First-name basis with the guy at Costco buying 700 diapers a month at one time.

Ann: You have five kids.

Jeremiah: So, I have a high capacity; you know what I mean? Yes, five children; I travel and speak. I mean, I'm not a wuss. [Laughter] I'm not weak.

But at the same time, I found myself wracked with so much anxiety. I was in an airport lounge, like the United Club, and I had a panic attack. I'd never had one of those in my life, and I never want to have one again. And I'm being very transparent because I think I can be vulnerable on this show that—

Dave: Oh, yes! Did you know it was a panic attack?

Jeremiah: No. I thought I was dying.

Ann: What was going on?

Jeremiah: I couldn’t breathe. I had so much anxiety, and I didn't know how to manage the anxiety and uncertainties in my life.

Ann: What were your symptoms of a panic attack?

Jeremiah: I was coming home from a great ministry. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I couldn't breathe; had to sit down, worried I was going to die. You know, I went to catastrophic thinking. And it was all related, not to physical challenges, but to anxiety.

And this was coming off an incredible ministry. I mean, everything outward looks great, you know? I was speaking at a church, flying home; you know, doing my thing: “blow in, blow up, blow out for Jesus,” and going home to the next thing, and it was a miracle I got home that night.

Audrey, my amazing wife, said, “Jeremiah. I think it's time that we talked to someone.” I think this is the first time I've ever said this on media, but I went to a Christian psychologist. You mean, “Jeremiah, you have a PhD in New Testament. You're an expert in the resurrection. You've written 14 books. You’re a dad. You've been married 20 years, and you had to go to a Christian psychologist?” Shame me all you want. Yes, I did. And it literally transformed my life.

When you are going through anxiety, you believe a lot of lies. You believe lies that, “You're a second-rate Christian, because a real Christian would never struggle with this like you.” “Maybe you're not even a Christian at all because you're so depressed.” “Maybe there's something wrong with you.” I became paralyzed by these thoughts, and I have a mind that already won't quit. But at the same time, not being able to grab, crush, and kill every one of these intrusive thoughts was starting to debilitate me.


Shelby: So, as I mentioned earlier, the next generation, in particular, is suffering from crippling anxiety. I had a conversation on my podcast with FamilyLife, called Real Life Loading. . . , with a campus ministry recently, who not only sees this, in the next generation, as a pretty blanket diagnosis for almost everybody that he’s talking to—of course, there are different things, different elements, in their lives that cause anxiety—but he ended up being a person who wrestled with anxiety pretty severely, to the point that he was bed-ridden for several months, without being able to get out of bed.

He ended up going to a Christian counselor—there’s no shame in that at all! He also went to a number of different doctors in this whole process to try to help him, and he found out that what was really going on was the main element in his life that was debilitating him was his anxiety.

He worked through a program that really embraces 2 Corinthians, Chapter 10—of “taking every thought captive”—and he went from being in bed, unable to move, on a Monday, to playing with his kids on Friday, by being intentional to apply Scripture to his mind, that ended up flowing to his heart. It was an incredible story that I loved hearing about how anxiety can be dealt with, not only through counseling and medication, but also through applying the truth of Scripture to it.

Dave, I wanted to ask you—

Dave: —oh, you’re going to go to me?!

Shelby: Yes, I want you to describe this time—your story in Boston, where you were overwhelmed with your limitations as a husband. This kind of connects to anxiety, but I wanted to hear that again.

Dave: The honeymoon? Second night?

Ann: Second night. And we were in Boston having a great time. We were on the subway, and we were totally lost. I thought, “This is so funny! This is so fun!” And you did not think it was fun—or funny! [Laughter]

Dave: Well, I—

Ann: —oh, let me add, Dave: we got off the subway, and we made it back to our hotel room. He gets into the hotel room, sits down in a chair, and just starts sobbing.

Dave: I mean, not a little cry.

Ann: I had never seen him do that! I was like, “What’s wrong?!” And he said, “I can’t do this!”

Dave: Yes, “be your husband.”

Ann: I was like, “We made it back from the subway fine!” [Laughter] But that was it.

Dave: Yes, it was this overwhelming anxiety—this fear. I was just scared to death.

Shelby: Knowing that you are limited.

Dave: Right, yes.

Shelby: Yes, our limitations are something that can lead us to fear—

Dave: —yes.

Shelby: —[to] anxiety; depression, even. Or we can get to a point where we need to say, “I need help!” When you’re at that point, as a Christian, that’s always a good thing.

Dave: I’ve got to tell you—and I hope our listeners feel the same way—that’s why I love what we do! We get to be that raw; that honest. I know there are listeners sitting there thinking, “I feel that right here, right now.” And there’s hope. Your anxiety is not a surprise to Jesus, and He wants to meet you right [there]; how He met Jeremiah, how He met me, He will meet you!

I’ve got to tell you, it’s amazing that we’re in your kitchen, or in your car, or in your family room right now. You know, God allows Himself, through this program, to bring Himself to you. Let Him minister to you right here, right now.

David: Yes, we know everyone’s “normal” until you get to know them. [Laughter] Every person—we’re all in need of Jesus.

Ann: Yes!

David: To meet us in our current—and everyone of you listening right now has a current—story going on. It’s why we’re passionate about what we do.

Dave: Yes.

David: And it’s why I’m grateful that Dave and Ann and Shelby, every day, bring the truth of God’s Word applied to your backstories, and what’s going on in your life. It’s amazing to me to hear the God-stories, of how He uses the timeless truth that’s talked about on FamilyLife Today in your stories and how He changes lives.

That’s why we’re inviting you, this month, to join us this year-end in this matching challenge; to give today to help us meet the full match and continue to minister to stories going on in people’s lives in the year to come also.

Shelby: Yes, every dollar that you give will be doubled this month, dollar-for-dollar. You can go online to with your donation, or you can give us a call at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

David, one time, I wanted to get a phone call with you, or maybe a Google meet with you, and you shared with me a snapshot of your calendar this week and said, “Pick a time.” Your calendar just made me incredibly anxious.

David: Oh.

Shelby: But at the same time, I follow you on Instagram, and I see the pictures you post at your son’s games or your daughter’s volleyball match; at the different activities that you’re doing after school and on the weekends. So, my question is—maybe not just for you, David, but also for you, Meg—how do you say “no” to good things when you’re in the thick of life with kids who have full lives of their own, and your schedules are busy all the time? How do you figure that out when it comes to limitations?

Ann: Everybody’s waiting to hear this answer, right?!

David: Well, one of the realities is, I do really hard cut-offs unless there’s a very unique season. You know, if the calendar ends at 5 o’clock that day, because there’s a 6 o’clock baseball practice, like yesterday, I was outta here! There were a few things that we could have tied up, but everybody knows, “David is going to be heading out,” because there’s baseball practice.

Shelby: That’s why you hung up on me that one time. [Laughter] I’m just kidding! Do you want to add anything, Meg?

Meg: Well, just that we definitely don’t do this perfectly, you know? I mean, it is, “Let’s revisit this, come back to the table, and reevaluate constantly.” When we get overcommitted—

David: —which we do!

Meg: Yes. And when we don’t prioritize the people that matter most to us, you know, we have to reorient and change that trajectory a little bit, and figure that out. It’s just like a constant, honest conversation.

David: Yes; you know, by my bedside table, there’s one I live out the least, that I just even want to confess. [Laughter] People, help me continue to do this! “I’m the only person who can walk with God for me. I’m the only person who can be the dad to my kids. And I’m the only husband who can be a husband to my wife.” It’s that third one that, sadly, Meg—you know, I’m going to walk with Jesus, and do everything I can to keep that alive and fresh. The kids—I’m going to prioritize them; we only get these 18 years. It’s that third one that really . . .

Our kids are best when our marriage is strongest, but it can be easy for that to be one that I don’t embrace my limitations on and trust that trickle down. So, I’m just confessing to the world here—[Laughter] That is the one that we do have to prioritize a lot!

Ann: We could all confess it, honestly.

Shelby: Yes, we definitely can.

We’re talking about accepting limitations today, and we’re just discussing the importance of that, and that we are finite. Finally, today, our listeners get a fresh reminder of how, despite the many limitations we face in life, there are never limits to the grace, goodness, and love of God that we can experience every single day. Here’s one of my favorites—my friend, Heather Holleman:

[Previously recorded audio]

Heather: If you keep reading Ephesians 2, you’re going to get to the most beautiful verse. In Ephesians 2:10, you’ve been “seated with Christ,” and it says, “You are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.” And I just, at that moment, thought, “Well, I’m seated with you Jesus. You have good works prepared. My motivation is no longer to achieve. It’s to abide with You and bear the fruit that You’ve ordained for my life. It’s like shackles came off of my heart and mind. [Laughter] It was such a huge transformation, that the people who know me best would say, “Heather, what has happened to you? You have become a different person.”

Ann: You were free!

Heather: The jealousy went away. I was free! I had all this energy, and the sadness left, and the fear. I would see–this was sort of the height of Instagram and Facebook, so imagine; now it’s much worse, we have TikTok and Snapchat. But you know, I was seeing endless photos of perfect families, of kids involved in The Nutcracker, and I would say, “Oh, I didn’t do dance for my children. We’re suffering.” [Laughter] “We made wrong decisions!”

Or vacations: I would cry in the church bathroom—this is a true story—when women would talk about their spring break plans for Aruba, or they’d chartered a boat. I would cry, and I would say, “Where is my perfect life? Why aren’t these things happening for me?” I would cry. Then, once I understood I was seated with Christ, I found this beautiful quote from the Hayden Planetarium and it said, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.”

I contacted the Hayden Planetarium because something about this quote, I was like, “All seats provide equal viewing of the universe.” I called the media director, and she said that when children race into the planetarium, they all race to the very front row, in an arena where there are no best seats. So, the museum guide has to say, “Children, all seats provide equal viewing of the universe. No matter where you sit, you will not miss any part of the show.”

I just burst into tears, because my seat was Center County, Pennsylvania. There’s no fame. There’s no glamorous life. [Laughter] There’s no retail.  It was like, “What am I doing?” And that day, it was like God opened my eyes to the beauty around me, that no matter where I sit, everyone has equal access to God’s power, His peace, His joy, His provision; all of the delights, all His abundance, no matter where you are. I can say that, because Paul was most likely in chains as he wrote that verse.


Shelby: So important to hear, and it’s really something I think many people struggle with, me included. I’m in the constant business of comparing myself to other people, and it’s just debilitating when that happens. But if I remind myself that my seat is my seat, and it’s not someone else’s seat, I can appreciate their seat and where they’re sitting, but not compare myself to them, I will be much more content with the way things have been set up for me by Jesus Himself.

Dave: I remember when Heather was here. She was dynamic!

Ann: She is incredible.

Dave: We just love her! But just now, listening again, when she said she heard God say to her, “You no longer need to achieve. Just abide,” I thought, “That’s a word for all of us.” We all are achievers, and we’re rushing, and rushing, and rushing. I get it! We have important things to do; but what would it be like to just abide?

Ann: Especially at this time of year! Holiday season is crazy! We’re rushing; we’re anxious; we’re trying to make it perfect for our families, and it’s hard. We lose that abiding aspect this time of year—of just being with Jesus. Even if it’s on the fly; even if you’re in your car! You can still be praying; you can still be connecting; you can still listen to the Word.

You can listen to FamilyLife Today, too! [Laughter]

Dave: You may think this is a marriage and family show, but this is a Jesus show! You know that. We get to bring Jesus to your house every day, and to your neighbors. We’re grateful for that! Many of you allow us to do that, because you pray for us, and you give us financial donations. Some of you have never done that. This is your year! Jump in! You can become a financial partner. Your dollar will be matched, dollar-for-dollar; it will be doubled! And you can make sure we keep bringing Jesus to your home and to your neighbors’ homes. You can be a partner! Shelby’s going to tell you how.

Shelby: You can do that very easily by going online to You can also give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

I’m excited to say that Brant Hansen will be back on again tomorrow. I mentioned him earlier, and we got to hear from him a little bit today. Tomorrow, he’s going to be describing how he’s come to appreciate his own physical limitations. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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