I’ll never forget the morning I walked into the Revive Our Hearts office and fell into my friends’ arms, sobbing, because I got news the night before that had wrecked me. One of my friends looked in my eyes and said, “But you still came into work. You did the next thing. I’m proud of you. You’re choosing to do the next thing.” Those words spoke life into my soul. That’s why I hope the truth and wisdom in this post helps your weary heart. — Samantha, LYWB.com blog Content Manager
I was barely functional for months on end.
Participating in a post-polio clinical trial last year left me exhausted, struggling with crushing fatigue and discouragement. I constantly felt drained and overwhelmed. So many things were left undone. My desk, piled with things to do, seemed too daunting to approach. I often wondered, Where do I start? Since I can’t do everything, should I bother to do anything?
As I sat at the table pondering my options, I remembered a piece of advice from Elisabeth Elliot. It became advice that would take me through numerous trials and countless days. Days when I felt inundated and didn’t know what to do. Days when it seemed impossible to accomplish anything.
Do the next thing.
A Clear Direction
These four simple words fueled me through the mundane and the monumental. Somehow they brought clarity and strength when I needed it and direction when I felt overwhelmed.
They provided me a framework after my son died. “Do the next thing” meant take a shower. Write the obituary. Plan a funeral. And after the initial flood of activity, it was invaluable advice in grieving when I still had the daily tasks of life before me. Make dinner. Beg God for grace. Do the laundry. Read the Bible. Call a friend. Take a nap.
Years later, while wondering how I was going to make it as a single parent, I followed the same advice. I was obsessing and lamenting over how our broken home would affect my children. Would they love God? How would they process their pain? How could I maintain a household in the midst of insanity?
All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. Give in to self-pity. Make it all go away. But I knew that I needed to face what was before me. Hiding was not an option.
I asked God for strength, and then did the next thing. Made dinner. Drove them to their game. Prepared my Bible study lesson. Prayed with them at night. There was no sense worrying about the future. I couldn’t control it anyway. But I could do the next thing.
And each time, by just doing the next thing, I was able to make it through. I had just enough light for the next step, but “just enough” was sufficient. It was all that I needed.
I had to do the next thing in the strength that God provided and trust He would supply what I needed. While the future looked dim and unknown, I knew that everything was under His loving, sovereign control. I had to take God’s hand in the dark, trust He would guide me, and then act on the information I had in front of me.
When I started living that way, I began experiencing tremendous freedom. Somehow the weight of my decisions was lifted. I didn’t need to figure it all out. I just needed to be connected to God. To hear His voice. To be still. And most of all, to trust Him.
So now when I feel overwhelmed at the enormity of a situation, I begin by tackling the simplest, most mundane tasks, then move to the things I’ve been putting off because they are either unpleasant or I don’t know where they’ll lead. I’ve discovered that the things I feel inadequate to face fully, I can handle by taking one small thing at a time. Each time I obey, God gives me clarity to do the next thing after that.
How It Helped Elisabeth Elliot
This simple advice, just do the next thing, has helped countless people. I first read it in Elisabeth Elliot’s book The Shaping of a Christian Family, taken from a poem her mother loved.
On her Gateway to Joy radio program, Elisabeth explained how “do the next thing” had been helpful to her. Elisabeth and her husband Jim had been serving on the mission field in Ecuador when he was martyred, leaving her alone with an infant daughter.
When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing.
Elisabeth goes on to say:
I’ve felt that way [other] times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend.
The poem says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” (Read the poem in its entirety here.)
If you are feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, I encourage you to just do the next thing. Pray, and then do the next thing after that. Trust God with the results. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He will guide you as you look to Him.
Just do the next thing.