Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do The Next Thing

When I was a new mom, I often felt overwhelmed by my circumstances. The crying, the whining, the mess. I would look around at it all and just want to sit down and have a good cry. At some point during all this, I heard Elizabeth Elliot speak on the concept of "do the next thing." She talked about how, after her husband Jim died, she would have been overcome if not for this simple concept. When her emotions would start to run away with her she would simply ask herself what the next thing she needed to do was. And then she would do it. And then she would do the next thing, and the next, and the next. And all those little "next things" made up her days.

I adopted this principle and began to whisper to myself, "Just do the next thing." Sometimes the next thing was change a diaper, or start dinner, or return a phone call. Even now I move through my day doing the next thing. Sometimes my next thing is to school the children. Sometimes it's to tidy the house. Sometimes it's to sit down and hammer out an article I have due. Whatever it is, I focus on that one task until it's done. And then I ask myself what's to be done next.

I always knew I learned this concept from a godly woman, but I never thought about this concept being from God. My reading in My Utmost For His Highest has helped me see that it is indeed a spiritual truth that God wants us to learn. Consider these two quotes:

"We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power... and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him."

"When the Spirit of God comes, He does not give us visions, He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable... whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things-- the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there."

Chambers referenced the scene with Elijah where he is running from King Ahab. He is hungry and tired and very depressed. In that scene God sends an angel to him who says simply, "Arise and eat." (I Kings 19:5) What was Elijah's "next thing" he needed to do? Get up and eat something! Sometimes just moving forward in the most basic way is all God needs from us. With our obedience comes the solution we are seeking.

I hope this thought helps someone out there who is feeling overwhelmed and even depressed. What "next thing" is God asking you to do? Get up, do whatever it is, and find Him there.
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Julie Coleman said...

Love this post. In fact, I am in the middle of Elisabeth Elliot's book "Secure in the Everlasting Arms." She used to come and speak once a semester at Gordon College, where I got my undergraduate degree. I have always loved her.

Doing the next thing focuses on the here and now. I just wrote a post about trusting God with the future. We aren't given the role of future-planner and controller. That's God's role. When we see Him at the helm, calmly guiding the ship, we can have reassurance on future events. Doing the next things centers us on one task at a time. If we combine that with keeping one eye on the Savior, it's a win-win.

SherriMonique said...

God's timing is always pefect! I heard Elizabeth Elliot say this very thing many years ago when I fortunate to hear her and I had completely forgotten. I definitely needed this today as I have felt so overwhelmed, to the point of drowning, lately.

I realize now that I just need "to do the next thing" instead of trying to do it all at one time. Confirmation and timing - what blessings they are.

Mary said...

What a great post for today. I am staring at a full two pages worth of a To Do list today and I seem to be spinning around in circles with multi-tasking way too much this week. I'm so glad I took a minute to read your blog this morning.

I'm off to clean the kitchen and then do the next thing from there.

momishome2 said...

Love it! I was just contemplating this very idea last night and pulled out an old photocopy of an old book with an even older poem entitled, "Doe the Nexte Thynge." I was thinking about writing an article with this (modernized) title. It sounds so simple, yet it is so very difficult to put into practise. Thanks for the great reminders.
Bethany L.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say thanks for being obedient to the Holy Spirit and writing this today. His timing is perfect. You'll never know God used this in my life today. Oh, wait, yes you will. We'll talk about it over coffee in heaven. See you there!

Laurie Ann said...

I incorporated this advice when I lost our child to miscarriage. Doing the next thing is what got me here to where I am today. I find myself still using that from time to time, especially when I'm just flat out exhausted. Sometimes the road ahead of us seems so long, but if we break it down by mile markers it's much easier. Great advice!

Jess said...

i love your writing.
thank you.


Bonita said...

I never tire of hearing this simple, yet profound,truth. Thank you for reminding me once again. It's something we have to continually keep fresh in our minds or we get easily overwhelmed.

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Marybeth! i could have used it this past weekend! i'll tuck it away for future reference...

JottinMama said...

The ideas in this post are so powerful, Marybeth.

I can't even describe how badly I needed to hear that.

Thank you :)


JD said...

This is really good. I need to keep rereading it. Thank you.


Sandra in Phx said...

This just is so timely! Ain't God cool?!
Yesterday I spent the day whizzing from task to task feeling completely overwhelmed. While everything got finished, it took ALL day to do it. So today, I am just doing the next thing:)

magnet for the crazy said...

What if your so lost you cant figure out what the next thing is. Sometimes there is so much to do I cant pick a focus so I dont pick at all. In times of crisis that has always been my motto Ithink we have just had to much crisis.

Victoria said...

Thank you for this. I have some tedious tasks at work that I really have to get caught up on, but I get overwhelmed because I think of all of them at once, then do nothing. I will do the next thing today, now. This really is an answered prayer; I have been asking the Lord to help me be more productive at work. Praise God for His faithful servants (you!). God bless.

Andie said...

I'm a little late in reading this, just ran across it. We've had such a tragedy occur in our life recently that has drawn us so close to GOD and I'm always searching for an answer WHY GOD.
It's so hard to get through every day, every day seems like a month and all I want to do is sleep. "Doing the next thing" is exactly what I needed.
GOD bless you for writing this, it speaks directly to me.

Lisa V - in NJ said...

Thank you beautiful Marybeth. I am feeling depressed today and though I have been turning to God more than ever in my life to deal with how I'm feeling, it was awesome to read that advice; "what's next?". Wow, what a crazy trip to just TRUST God, really, truly, deep down, almost feeling crazy TRUST. But I'm loving it. Thanks Marybeth. I'm going to take that advice!

Musings of a Housewife said...

That quote has gotten me through many a day. Thanks for sharing!