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“Do the Next Thing”
A poem quoted by Elisabeth Elliot
"At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.
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.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing."
I’ve often reflected on Elisabeth Elliot’s strength. She and her husband, Jim had traveled to Ecuador to reach tribal people with the gospel; the very people they wanted to help struck out against them and Jim lost his life here on earth.
Elisabeth knew that he would spend eternity with God in heaven, but I can only imagine the pain she must’ve endured. After all, they were doing the work of the Lord; they were acting in obedience to Him. How could it turn out so badly? And yet- this woman of God did not become bitter; she moved on to the “next thing.” Elisabeth Elliot continued to serve God and ministered to the Auca Indians in spite of the violent act the Indians had inflicted on Jim Eliot and others.
How does one so willingly forgive and then move on to do the next thing? As often as I have wanted to simply do the next thing, I find myself stuck in certain places: thought patterns, hard feelings, and- yes- even resentment for having to move on. Okay, so I am no Elisabeth Elliot; but, I serve the same God and therefore, should be capable of the same spiritual fortitude. That is what I long for!
I look at my years as wife and mother. I really have felt that I gave my all. I loved passionately, taught feverishly, and lived transparently so that my children would see a real picture of life. I taught them scripture and Biblical truths; I did my very best to set an example that would help them live out their own lives. I truly have loved my husband and my children. In other words, I tried to live this part of my life out obediently. I wanted to live a life like Elisabeth Elliot… minus the loss. Alas, no such life exists. There will always be loss. Perhaps we do not have to suffer the incomprehensible pain that she did; but loss is loss.
We can suffer loss in other ways: separation or divorce, change of job or housing and wandering children; certainly these can weigh on our hearts. In my case, loss represents itself as fragments; my family became seemingly disjointed by differing worldviews.
Because I had a picture of what life would look like when my children were grown, I now feel disappointed. I had imagined a close-knit family who could rejoice with one another in the good times and pray for one another in the bad. We would share a common bond of a Christian love and legacy.
Yet- we don’t really look like that. So- now what? My natural inclination is to throw up my hands in despair. Where did I go wrong? What could have been done differently? How did we get from there to here? Why do we need to walk this hard road? Questions abound, but I do not know the answers.
Today, the most pressing question is this: Where do I go from here? Once again, I have no answer. However, I can turn to the One who does know. My God, my Savior will lead me just as He always has. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)
The Lord has a plan. He knew what our family would look like long before we stepped foot on this earth; He knew that grandchildren would all live far away and He knew that some of our children would carry strife between them. He knew. He knows. He knows.
So, now I must learn to trust His plan. My life has changed as my children have grown, but that doesn’t mean that life is over. He will show me the next thing. Now I must watch, listen, and obey. I must stop looking back, stop trying to change the present, and begin to look forward.
I must do the next thing.
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