Since we moved three weeks ago, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that need to be done – 20-odd boxes still to be unpacked, pictures need to be hung, a huge pile of the boys’ clothes on my bedroom floor that need to be sorted and put away, etc.
Everywhere I look there are tasks that need to be completed, and yet I am busy doing so many other things. There are always dishes to be washed, meals to prepare, homeschool lessons to be taught, clothes to be washed, hung, folded, or put away. When we moved to this new city, our househelper of 7 years was not able to come with us. We miss her terribly because she is our dear friend, and oh, how I miss her helping hands! Because we are leaving for the US at the end of this month, we have decided to go without a new househelper. I have taken over all of those duties (and am training the boys to do their share), filling up my days even more. There is simply always “the next thing” to do!
In the midst of these duties, I was reminded of a quote from Elisabeth Elliot that I read many years ago. Most of you know the amazing story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. In the 1960’s, the Elliots and four other couples planted themselves among the savage Auca tribe of Ecuador in an effort to bring to them the good news of the Gospel. Translation work was underway and a handful of Believers were being trained to lead the newborn church. Sadly, the five families were not welcomed by all, and in an effort to protect their people and their culture, Auca warriors speared all five men along a jungle river, their bodies floating downstream for days before being recovered.
In one of her books, Elisabeth talks about how she spent the hours and days after receiving word that Jim had indeed been killed. At a time when she should have been overcome by the grief and pain of such a tragic situation, Elisabeth said she simply did the next thing. She cared for her infant daughter, she prepared the next meal, she washed the dirty clothes, she had the next conversation, she swept the floor, she made the next decision…all the time trusting in God’s loving care for her and His plan to use her tragedy for His own glory. Elisabeth quotes a poem – rightly called Do the Next Thing. I have included it here in its entirety, putting the third stanza in bold as it speaks to me especially clearly in my current circumstances.
Do The Next Thing
From an old English parsonage, down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration–“DO THE NEXT THING.”
Many a question, many of fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them 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,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee, “DO THE NEXT THING.”
In the weeks that have passed since our move, I praise God for the fullness of my days. I am busy, occupied, content – setting myself to do the next thing with joy – setting my eyes on Him. It is a sweet grace to not have to worry about how to spend my time. There is much to be done. All of it is acceptable to Him and is received as worship if done with a heart that is bent toward pleasing Him.