The Frustrated Missionary

by Robert Buchanan

My wife and I have been in our country of service for a little over ten years now. When we first came to the field, we said that we would stay until God told us to go elsewhere, and we still affirm that position today. So while we both love being here, I will let you in on a little secret: I am routinely frustrated.

I also know another not-so-secret secret: many of you who serve overseas are frustrated too. The fact is that life in a country which is not your own, where you are separated from loved ones, and where literally everything is more difficult naturally leads to frustration.

Sometimes in my frustration I think of Philippians 4:4-7, which instructs us:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I’m sure you’ve heard this scripture before, and I’m sure that as Christians you believe in the truthfulness of this verse, but how do we apply it to everyday life? Here are some precepts to consider.

1. Realize that God is in control and not you or me.

Remember that God called you for His work, and He is not surprised by the things you face. So stay the course, pray, and follow God’s leading.

Matthew 28:18-20 says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Christ sends us, He has all authority, and He is with us to the end of the age. And if Christ sends us, we need to be confident, not in our own abilities, but in His and in the fact that He will give us the abilities we need when we need them. While we need to our best every day, the overall mission is in God’s hands and does not ultimately rest on our decisions.

2. Have an informal trusted board of Christian advisors.

Proverbs 15:22 tells us that “Plans fail for lack of counsel,but with many advisers they succeed.”

Who in your life will speak truth to you and hold you accountable? Who will pray for you on a regular basis? Whom can you trust to bounce untested, in-progress ideas off of? None of us has all the answers, but trusted Christian advisors can help each of us see more clearly in areas where we are naturally blind.

3. Do the things that can be done.

Remember that these things are only possible because God has gifted you in that way.

Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Can we choose to do good to our brothers and sisters in Christ in obedience to God’s will? We may not have control over other things, but we can actively choose to do good.

4. Respect the abilities that God has given others.

This can be difficult when disagreements arise, but if everyone were respectful, a great many conflicts would end or, better still, be avoided.

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 reads, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

We have our own viewpoints based on our gifting, training, and experience, but so do others. You or I might be right about a given issue, but the way we approach others makes huge difference. Let’s choose respect.

5. Try to live at peace with all people.

This is not always in our control, but we should control our own behavior. Remember that being angry isn’t necessarily sinful. We should be angry about evil and injustice and also pray that our righteous anger does not lead us to sin. And when it does lead us to sin, we confess it to God.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Conflicts are a part of life and can produce positive results, but we need to be careful about letting conflicts become destructive to relationships.

6. If you are a follower or advisor…

Remember that God places authorities in power at specific places for His purposes and timing.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

We can disagree with leadership, but it is wise to remember that leaders have pressures on them that we don’t, so we can try to offer grace whenever possible.

7. If you are a leader…

Pray for God’s direction, respect those who report to you, seek counsel, and surround yourself with people who will challenge you, but at the end of the day, hard decisions need to be made, and you cannot nor should not attempt to please everyone.

1 Samuel 2:34 says, “And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.”

What was God furious about? First Samuel 2:22 tells us that Eli, the priest and judge of Israel, was aware that his sons were abusing their power as priests; yet Samuel took no decisive action against his sons.

Remember, nothing undermines a leader’s credibility as much as indecisiveness and the failure to hold people accountable. If you are a leader, the best you can do is be obedient to God. If you have answered God’s call to lead and are obedient to Him, then move forward with confidence.

At the end of the day, the results of our ministries are up to God. Our job is to show up each day, be obedient, do our best, hold fast, and wait upon the Lord. We not up the task, but thankfully our God is and still seeks to use us in His mission to reach the lost and to restore all things to Himself. So we need not be anxious or frustrated but can instead rejoice in the Lord, who guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Robert Buchanan is a career security professional who ten years ago answered God’s call to use his skills in overseas missions. He currently serves as a security advisor for a mission organization in the South Pacific. His wife Heather serves as a teacher in the local international school, and together they have found that true joy comes from doing God’s will — even when conditions are challenging.

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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