Why “I’m Not Cut Out for That” Doesn’t Cut It

“I’m just not cut out for that,” I’ve often caught myself saying aloud or internally when faced with a task or ministry opportunity that looks uncomfortable for me. “I’m not cut out for that” is often code for “I don’t think that particular work looks like something I would enjoy or do well.” No one can argue with an excuse like that. After all, if I’m not cut out for it, what more is there to say?

I was convicted of this kind of thinking recently as our family read together the story of one of my heroes, Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth Elliot, her husband Jim, and their infant daughter were missionaries in Ecuador during the 1950s. Jim and four other missionaries went deep into the jungle to an uncontacted people group called the Waodani in an effort to share the gospel with them. Tragically, the Waodani murdered all five missionary men. Later, Elisabeth, her toddler daughter, and another woman returned to the Waodani to continue the effort of sharing the gospel, living among them for several years and eventually leading them to Christ.

This incredibly inspiring story made me evaluate my own commitment to serving Christ wholeheartedly and without excuses. I’m certain that upon hearing the news that her husband had been killed, Elisabeth didn’t think, “I’m really cut out to take my baby and risk our lives among these people in impossibly primitive conditions so I can share the gospel with them.” In reading many of her books, it’s clear to me that she just didn’t think of herself much at all. She didn’t think it was her job to determine if she was the right person for the work. Rather, she saw the Waodani people’s need for Jesus and the Scriptural command to share the good news as sufficient evidence that she should do it.

During my freshman year of college, my entire class was required to take a couple of personality tests. It was common that year to hear classmates discuss their results and define their actions and future plans in terms of those results. While I benefited in many ways from a better understanding of my personality and how it affects my thought processes, feelings, and actions, I found that it was easy to chalk up all my weaknesses and failures to it, as though somehow they had been predetermined by my scores.

It’s still easy to do that. I can say, “Well, I just don’t do well with noise so I don’t think I’m cut out for helping in the church nursery.” Or, “I wouldn’t be a good foster parent because I’d get too attached.” Or, “Down time is essential for my emotional wellbeing, so I’m not going to invite that new family in the neighborhood over for dinner tonight.”

While it’s beautiful to see the different personalities and talents with which God has endowed human beings, and while we all have certain roles or tasks which come naturally to us, God has a history of using people who weren’t cut out for the job he asked them to do. Moses, the tongue-tied prophet, anyone? David, the adolescent giant-slayer? Mary, the unwed mother of the Savior? None of them thought, “I am really cut out for this impossible task before me.” Their trust wasn’t in their enneagram number or MBTI type, but it was in the God who entrusted them with the work.

Ultimately, we are all cut out for service to our Creator, and our decision to serve should begin with him, not what we think is the most comfortable fit for us. We should ask, what would glorify God? What does he value? What does he command for a servant like me in a situation like this? We can trust that God will use both our unique gifts and our unique weaknesses in whatever work we do. It’s not up to us to decide if we are the best fit for the job, but only to be faithful in whatever is in front of us.

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