May 29, 2009
Do the Next Thing
“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’”
Haggai 1:5 (NIV)
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 that time, I heard Elisabeth 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 to 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 homeschool my 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 Oswald Chamber’s timeless devotional, 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 in I Kings where Elijah is running from King Ahab. He is hungry and tired and very depressed. (Ever been there?) 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 will help you or someone else 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.
Dear Lord, help me to do the next thing when I feel overwhelmed. Help me to remember that You are right there waiting in that next thing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
30 Days to Taming Your Stress by Deborah Smith Pegues
Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time by Donna Otto
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Make a list of things you need to accomplish today. Now, instead of getting overwhelmed by your list, pray over it and ask God, What is the next thing I need to do? It might just be to cross some of those things off your list!
What is a “next thing” you can do right now?
Jeremiah 10:23, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” (NIV)
Proverbs 20:24, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (NIV)
© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
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