Having been called to serve in the Thailand Bangkok Mission, I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC), where I really struggled to learn the Thai language. I didn’t understand how the tones worked or how to pronounce the glottal vowels. As the only sister missionary going to Thailand in my MTC district, I felt I was at a disadvantage because, unlike the elders, I didn’t have a companion learning Thai with whom I could constantly practice the language. As the weeks passed I became frustrated. I felt that the rest of my district was progressing more quickly than I was.
To make up for not having a companion who was learning the language, I started studying vocabulary early in the mornings before class started, determined to keep up with the elders. However, this extra study time didn’t move me ahead as I thought it would, which increased my frustration. I felt that the other missionaries speaking Thai were being blessed to learn the language but that for some reason I wasn’t experiencing this blessing.
During this time my sister-in-law sent me a letter with a saying that read, “Just because God is smiling on someone else doesn’t mean He is frowning on you.” I realized my mistake. I had been so focused on comparing myself with the rest of my district that I failed to see how Heavenly Father had helped me. I thought back to my first week in the MTC and realized that I had improved. I also realized that just because others seemed to be learning the language faster than I was didn’t mean I wasn’t making any progress. Heavenly Father was helping me understand the tones and foreign pronunciation. He was helping me remember the vocabulary words I spent hours studying. And despite what I had thought, He was helping me learn the language.
I also realized that we were all part of the work of our Heavenly Father and so it didn’t matter who was the best. What mattered was that I was working hard and that I recognized and acknowledged the help Heavenly Father was giving me.
At different times during my missionary service I heard the success of other missionaries and wondered why, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t seeing the same kind of results—why I wasn’t being blessed the same way they were. At these moments when I began to compare my results and progress with that of others, I would remember the saying my sister-in-law sent me, and it would remind me that there were good things about my area and the work there. I’d remember that God was blessing me as I served Him the best I was able to, even if it wasn’t the same way He was blessing the other missionaries.
Years later, President Thomas S. Monson taught something that gave me further insight into seeing the blessings in my life. He said:
“We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, ‘He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.’ …
“Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.”1