When my youngest son was small, he was a chatty little guy. In fact, sometimes he could talk too much. I didn’t want to squelch his openness with people or his ability to strike up a conversation, as those are valuable traits (which don’t come naturally to me!) But no one wants to be around someone who talks incessantly. Once he was talking to the wife of a visiting missionary family at church who was trying to soothe a fussy baby and graciously step away from him. He kept chatting merrily on, unaware that she was trying to escape. When I tried to suggest that perhaps he was talking a little too much, he flashed his bright smile and said, “That’s just the way God made me.”
“Well,” I thought, “What do I say to that?”
After a while the Lord did bring to mind a few principles to share with him, such as the fact that God made us to eat, yet it is wrong to eat too much or the wrong things; God made us to sleep, but warns against loving sleep too much and being lazy, etc. He gives us responsibility to use our natural bent and inclinations in the right way. We talked about the warning signs that you’re talking too much — when other people look bored, sleepy, or glazed, or when they’re trying to step away or start another conversation with someone else, etc.
It’s good to know how God made us. The preponderance of books and articles about personality tests and frameworks shows just how interested people are in this topic. Some of us have experienced major frustration trying to fit in a task or even ministry, only to realize later that we weren’t gifted for that position.
I participated in a particular ministry for years without really enjoying it. I thought I was guilty of a bad attitude and needed to pray more. When I was asked to take a different position within that ministry, I suddenly felt as if I had found my niche, and my attitude changed completely. That was one of my first inklings that the way we’re wired has a lot to do with what ministries and tasks we’re best suited for.
But knowing how we’re wired is only half the battle. Here are a few other considerations concerning our personalities and giftings:
We can’t insist on our own way.
I know I am an introvert. For many years introversion was considered negative, but books like Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power on Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking helped demonstrate that introverts have valuable and needful traits. That book helped me feel at home in my own skin.
But I can’t sit in my corner with a book as much as I’d like to. I can’t always leave greeting visitors at church to others who are better at it. I have to depend on God’s grace when I don’t get what I think I need.
Sometimes we have to extend ourselves outside our comfort zones. Our pastor has said that he’s very spontaneous, but he has learned that his wife and son need a bit of time to mentally change gears from what they’re doing to what he suggests. When we love, live, and work with others who are wired differently, sometimes we have to yield to them or meet them halfway.
When my middle son was in the 6th or 7th grade, he lamented that he studied for spelling tests and yet still received disappointing grades. A classmate hardly studied at all and yet made A’s. I explained that everyone has an aptitude for certain areas, and this friend obviously had an aptitude for spelling. My son brightened, thinking that since he didn’t have a natural aptitude for spelling, he didn’t have to worry about it. I had to say, no, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work on your spelling: in fact, in means you have to work harder!
We have weaknesses directly related to our gifts.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, every strength has an offsetting weakness. An acquaintance is very much a take-charge person. When there’s a crisis, when no one know what to do first, this man is great to have around. He knows just what to do, how to organize tasks and people. But not every situation calls for leadership. When he tries to use those same skills when they’re not needed, he just comes across as controlling.
I used to really struggle under the leadership of someone who was an “idea guy.” When he overlooked something that caused problems, frustrations, more work, etc., for the people under him, he’d just smile and say, “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m not good with details. I’m just not wired that way.” I’ve heard someone apologize for an angry outburst by saying, “I’m sorry, I just have a bad temper.” I’ve known people who think they have the spirituals gifts of prophesy or exhortation to harshly lambast a person or movement (and take great pleasure in doing so), forgetting that “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (II Timothy 2:24-25).
We need to keep growing
No matter what our gifts are, we’re still tainted by a sin nature. We’re not perfect yet. God needs to keep refining us and developing us. We rest in Christ for our righteousness and salvation. But we can’t rest on past laurels or victories or even our gifts. The devil doesn’t rest in trying to trip us up or distract us. To keep growing, we need to keep abiding and keep letting God cultivate us and prune us.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (Philippians 1:9)
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10)
Sometimes God calls us to a task outside our natural gifts.
Moses felt he could not lead or speak, yet God did not accept any of his excuses. Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, ‘Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak’” (Jeremiah 1:6-7). We think of the apostle Paul as bold and wise, yet he said, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom.” But he goes on to say he ministered “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:3-5).
Sometimes God uses people in the ways they seem to be bent, but other times He calls them to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them to show His power and His grace through them. While taking care of my mother-in-law a few years ago, I wrote in Rethinking Spiritual Gifts:
Someone I knew said of their daughter, who was training to be a nurse, that she was a “natural caregiver.” Another friend who is a nurse spoke of loving to use the talents God had given her to minister to people in that way—another natural caregiver. That’s not me. I want people to be cared for, particularly my mother-in-law. But I have never been good with or felt inclined to the hands-on type of caregiving she is in need of now, except with my own children.
Yet here we are. Do I tell God, “There must be some mistake. Not only am I not gifted for this, but it’s keeping me from what I feel I am gifted for.” Probably not a good idea. Spiritual gift tests can sometimes foster a “That’s not my job” syndrome when we’re asked to do something outside of our comfort zone.
Though we need to rely on God’s help, grace, and strength even for those areas where we feel He has gifted us, there’s nothing like being totally out of our element to make us lean on Him and plea for His enabling like never before. And though the main point of caregiving isn’t about me, but rather about showing love and ministering to my mother-in-law, perhaps one reason He has allowed this opportunity is to teach me lessons about my own selfishness as well as serving and loving others in the way they most need it, not in the way I am “comfortable” showing it.
The person who is not good with details is not excused from having to deal with them; in fact, he may have to work harder to handle them, or hire an assistant to help him. The person with a bad temper is not allowed to give it free reign because he can’t help himself. The shy or introverted person has to extend herself sometimes, even though it’s uncomfortable. Even spiritual gifts such as exhortation or mercy or giving have to be kept in balance. A person whose gift is giving for example, can’t run his family into debt or neglect their needs to give to others. He is responsible to exercise that gift in conjunction with other Scriptural instruction under God’s leadership. Scripture contains several passages of instruction concerning how to exercise spiritual gifts.
Understanding they way we’re “wired” does help us to know what direction to go in life, what ministries or vocations to choose, etc. For instance, I am not good with numbers: I can add the same list of numbers up three times and get three different answers—even with a calculator. So I would not look for a job as an accountant. I get rattled in a busy, noisy environment, so I wouldn’t likely work best there—as a teen I lasted working for a fast-food place for only a week.
Whether dealing with a sin issue, a personality bent, or even a spiritual gift, “That’s just the way I am” is not a good excuse. God wants us to seek Him for deliverance from the power of sin, for power and grace to maintain right balances and to be diligent even in areas where we don’t have natural gifts, and for help to grow continually more Christlike every day we live. He does not want us to remain “just the way we are.” “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). We’re changed by beholding Him.
(Revised from the archives)
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Kingdom Bloggers, Global Blogging,
Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith,
Tell His Story, Tea and Word, Happy Now, Anchored Abode,
Let’s Have Coffee, Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Faith ‘n Friends)
Great post Barbara. Thank you.
One to reflect on and I love that last quote #GlobalBlogging
Thank you, Kate.
I can relate to your friend with leadership skills. I have realized that my “leadership” is a gift, but when it’s not called for it is, in fact, controlling. God is showing me how to have wisdom and soften my heart in the times I’m not called to lead. (FYI, this is not always easy!)
I tend to hold back and not speak up when I should, and it’s not easy to overcome that, either. We so need God’s wisdom and grace to know what to do when and then overcome our natural tendencies in some cases.
Excellent post! So true that we can’t just use the excuse of “That’s just how God made me.” Yes, He made us, but we are all selfish, sinful beings and He loves us too much to leave us that way. Growing in Christ means changing and transforming in new ways. I’ve also learned that God has called me outside my “giftedness” because He wanted to develop my utter reliance and dependence upon Him. Regarding HSP’s, Denise Hughes and Cheri Gregory just came out with a new book (you can pre-order it) called “Sensitive & Strong” – it explores some of the issues raised in “Quiet” and debunks myths about HSP’s as well as points out the strengths and vulnerabilities of HSPeople. It’s an awesome read!
Thanks for the recommendation! I read a book about HSPs a while back, which was helpful except I disagreed with the world view of the author. I’ll look this one up.
I loved this post!! Just because I’m a preK special ed teacher who loves her job and the little ones, doesn’t mean I’m meant to work in the nursery/toddler rooms/Sunday school ministry. For years i did and resented it, then when we were led to our current church (2005) it was so refreshing to be told to take a break from ministry and wait a year. Plus in our church you have to go through background checks,etc. well lo and behold, after doing a class on spiritual giftings, yes my gifting is teaching, hospitality and leadership. But i was also told it doesn’t mean you have to do your career in a ministerial position!! That totally freed me up to pursue being a small group leader for women’s Bible studies. A much better niche for me!! Also i am no longer involved in music ministry even though i love it and have the undergrad music degree. My season for that was up in 2002!! I love the excitement of seeing where God uses our giftings and personality through the years.
Thanks, Faith. Teaching was one of my gifts as well, though I don’t feel particularly led to do so in front of people. Someone pointed out writing is a type of teaching, and that clicked with me. It’s neat to see how God makes a way for the gifts He has given us to be used for His glory.
Great points, Barbara–and I love the fall image at the top of your site!
Too often, we throw up our hands in a sort of lazy surrender to our besetting sins when we’re called to a race and a battle.
That’s a perceptive way to put it, Michele.I always appreciate your insights.
This is a great post, Barbara! I loved Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” and personality tests have helped me a lot, especially in working with someone who is very different from me. I agree though, we do need to step out of our comfort zones at times and we can’t use our personalities as an excuse!
Thanks, Lesley! Understanding personalities does help in our interactions with others who are different.
Such good lessons here, Barbara! I think I remember it from the first go-round as well, so obviously it resonates with me. It is advantageous to understand how we’re made, but not to use as a crutch. Ditto to all you said.
Thanks, Lisa! I’m too prone to excuse myself when seemingly called to something outside my comfort zone, so I need these reminders often.
So much food for thoughts here; thinking about “how God made us”/personalities/etc. is always interesting to me. I agree with your points that we shouldn’t use certain traits etc. as excuses. I do think it will be interesting some day to see how God regards each of us in light of “how He made us.” For instance, He may have different expectations of someone someone who deals with mental illness vs someone mentally healthy — that’s just one example, but there are so many.
That’s true–He knows our capacities for what we can take in and understand.
Thank you! So much to chew on in this post. God created us as unique individuals with unique giftings and so often we use our uniqueness as excuses. Thank you for much to think and pray about!
Thank you, Susan. We so need His wisdom and grace and guidance.
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I agree that we are made in a particular way but that doesn’t prevent us trying to grow and improve. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
Yes–whatever our personality, we should always strive to grow.
Great words as always! I love the gentle way you redirected and taught your son about the overuse of words. I also was nodding my head about the pastor who declared he was a not a details guy. Your caution to not carry that weakness as an excuse is a good one.
Thanks so much, Mary. I have a tendency to excuse my weaknesses and need to remind myself God gives grace to overcome.
Barbara – I loved this post. I am pinning to find it again later. It was packed full of wisdom. So many times, I have people close to me say, “it is just the way I am.” I never quite know how to respond. You have given me some thoughts to ponder. Thank you!
God has indeed called me into areas I never thought dreamed of serving in. I felt inadequate, still do on many days. Yet, He always equips. No, I may not be as good as someone else, but it’s God’s doing, so I chose to Trust Him. Maree
Thanks so much, Maree. I need these reminders often myself.