“When you don’t have enough, be thankful for what you do have.”

My mother’s words continue to echo in my heart to this day, many years later. As missionaries, Peter and I have discovered that they can be applied to our lives in many ways, not just in the sphere of money.

When I don’t have “enough” health, but am grateful for what I do have:

  • God opens my eyes to see how I can use my bad health to encourage other people with bad health. When I injured my back, He gave me a ministry to partners back in Canada who were going through health crises of their own. We would connect via email or Skype, pray for each other, send little encouragements, and share what God had been teaching us through our experiences. In that time, I even wrote a book that has helped to encourage people with health challenges.
  • God shows me how I can use my joy in trial to challenge the healthy and showcase His power. Our Japanese friends came to our house, ate at a table set up by my bed, and were mystified by the genuine smile they saw on my face (remember, they’re masters at reading body language). I was able to share with many of them the reason for my hope and joy.

When I don’t have “enough” language ability:

  • Sometimes we are tempted to be jealous of people more capable than we are. We want to lead Bible studies in Japanese! We want to help struggling new Christians! There’s so much we want to say, so much we want to contribute, but we can’t!
  • God shows us how we are in a special time in our lives, how we’ll never again have the opportunities we have right now—because of our weak language. He shows us how we can gather our friends around us to explain sermons to us more simply. Since we’ve shared our vulnerability, they too are freed to ask their own questions without shame.

When I don’t have “enough” contacts who aren’t Christian:

  • God gives me the opportunity to disciple others in outreach, to challenge my other Christian friends to reach out their contacts. Our friends, Helen, Chelsea, and Daniel, have all had the joy of inviting their friends to our outreach events, and seeing them eventually come to know and love Jesus! Daniel even had the privilege of helping to baptize two of his friends in the ocean! (The currents are a little too strong for elderly Pastor Higa to do this alone.)

When we don’t have “enough” people come out to our events:

  • We have the opportunity to connect more deeply with the people who have come. Recently we had a tropical storm come through on the day of our cooking club. Before the storm was on the radar, I’d expected many people to come, and had pre-cooked lots of food for everyone. Just over half of the anticipated number came. Yes, there was too much food, but the smaller group gave me the chance to connect better with the new people who came, and everyone got to bring home some extra food!

When I don’t have “enough” cultural understanding:

  • I have an opportunity to enlist a few special friends as “cultural advisors”. When I lay myself out, stripped of everything but my vulnerability, these friends respond with vulnerability of their own. When I am grateful to them for their help, their hearts open up to me, and I can form family-like friendships that root me deeply in my adopted culture.
  • God reminds me that no one knows someone else’s heart the way He does. Rather than relying on an erroneous sense of proficiency (as I often do in my home culture), I have an opportunity to rely solely on His direction. Should I say something to that person passing on the street? Pray about it. Maybe that person needs to be the conversation’s initiator so that he will be more invested in it later. Should I correct that person’s erroneous view of God? Pray about it. Maybe she isn’t ready to hear that correction yet. Maybe she needs more time. (In one case, our keeping silent was instrumental in a couple becoming Christians. Click here to read the story!)

When I don’t have “enough” funding:

  • My natural instinct is to cringe and batten down the hatches of our finances. But this week God reminded me of something I wrote in my book:

“The heart attitudes of a missionary will colour his or her relationship with partners and will profoundly impact ministry in the target country. An attitude of entitlement during the partnership development process can be exhibited as arrogance on the field. Conversely, an attitude of timidity, fear, or embarrassment does not build a foundation of boldness and victory for future ministry.” [1]

  • If I don’t have enough funding, I can be grateful for what I do have, and for the faithfulness of my existing financial partners. I can let them know, with little notes and phone calls, how grateful I am.
  • I can be grateful that Skype exists. Not only can I use it to call my family, but I can call potential new partners for a chat even while I’m on the field.
  • Most importantly, rather than cringing in fear at the though of fundraising from the field, I can adopt an attitude of excitement and expectation. After all, the God I serve is big. This is His ministry, and I can be excited to see how He will provide for it.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in any life. When I don’t have it, I tend to rely more on my own strength than on God’s. When I do have it, God uses it as a tool to open my eyes to new opportunities that I’ve not seen before. So where have I blinded myself with ingratitude? Where else can I be grateful?

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

What will God do next?


[1] Valerie Limmer, On the Potter’s Wheel, (Toronto: Green Sap Publishing, 2016), 81.

(Picture source)