Do the Next Thing
Marybeth Whalen

"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.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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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Visit Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:
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?

Power Verses:
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.

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Anonymous Kerry Bergman said...

Today was the beginning. I stopped listening to myself, trying to get in a few more minutes sleep and listened to God as he hearkened me to awake and get in the Word, do a devotional, spend some time with Him.
The computer is a source of "distraction" for me and I was pulled toward it hearing in my mind," Let's use the computer as a tool instead of a distraction". I typed in online devotionals for women and this is the first site I found. The devotional was inspiring, but the most important part is that it called for action following. It called me to take the Word of God I just read, to intently read the devotional and then put it into action. God is calling us all to action. So I did the "next thing". I bookmarked this site and will return daily. Thank you for my blessing from God this morning. May He bless all that you do!

Blogger Gina said...

This was just what I needed to hear this morning. Working full time and running a household overwhelm me frequently, and this simple concept "do the next thing" was exactly the encouragement I needed to keep going today. Thank you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!! I have been struggling with depression/feeling overwhelmed and this is what I need to remember....

Blogger Juliet said...

Even though I am not depressed, I usually feel guilty doing the next thing when things are hectic but this piece relieved my guilt forever just knowing God is always there waiting at the next thing!

Anonymous Jess said...

This is definitely something I need to remember!! With two children under 2 and a husband who is frequently out of town, I often feel like I have 100 things to do at the same time, and I can easily get overwhelmed. I have told myself something along the lines of "do the next thing" on some of my better days, but this will help me to remember it much more now. Thank you for sharing!

Blogger Dustan and Becka said...

Thank you for this. I woke up feeling very overwhelmed. This reminder was very timely for me.

Anonymous Lorraina said...

My husband and I will be commissioned and ordained as ministers(officers) with The Salvation Army in the coming weeks. We will then take charge of a corps(church, homeless shelter and social service agency). As we set out to minister to others I have begun to feel overwhelmed. We have a large task ahead of us, but we also have two children (7 and 10)who we can not neglect in the process. As a wife, mother, and minister of God, I began to feel like "what if I can't do it all". Today, I am reminded that I don't have to do it all,just "do the next thing". The Lord's strength is perfect and he will direct my path.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was perfect for me today. Sometimes I get very confused and yesterday, I asked God to make things clear. Today He did through this devo. I don't have to let confusion cripple me-I just do the next thing. Confusion is satan's dart and the knowledge of God's Word that He is directing my paths is my helmet and shield that I use to stop the dart of satan. Praising God my Father for His Faithfulness and love.

Blogger Adrienne said...

This was exactly what I needed today! I felt God nudging me to come to the website today and here was the answer to my overwhelming situation. I am at the other end of family needs - my children are grown and have children of their own. However, I am the sole surviving child of my 86-year-old mother whose needs increase weekly. And our daughter and her children need so much from us - her young husband died suddenly 2 days before Christmas. I am preparing for out-of-state family to arrive in a few days. Needless to say, my life is hectic and fast-paced. But today God led me to what you shared. And it was the answer! Thank you for being His hand extended to me - I will come back often.

I am so glad my friend sent me a link to your site today - we will both be looking for employment soon as our company is shutting down our entire location, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of this change and what the future will bring. Thank you for this reminder!


Anonymous Angela W. said...

I struggled all day with being unproductive for the Lord and my family. I was sitting in the horse pasture looking at all of God's creation wondering why it seems so hard to accomplish things throughout the day. To make a long story short, I found a piece of paper in the barn and wrote on the top of it that I wanted to be a Proverbs 31 woman for the Lord. I made a list of the items that will be accomplished tomorrow, having prayer time as soon as breakfast is over and the kids are off to school. When I got in tonight, I felt led to look up today's Proverbs 31 daily devotional instead of getting onto facebook or some other addictive, yet pointless site. When I read what today's message was, I just smiled at just how much God loves me. Just do the next thing!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to say thank you to Proverbs 31 Daily Devotions. I am thankful for the insightful devotions every day and encouraged by what readers comment also very much. Today's lesson to Just Do The Next Thing is just what I needed to hear as a mom of a 3 year old and 14 year old sons.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been sick here lately and my three year old has torn my house to pieces when I came out of my medication stooper I was overwhelmed with the mess before me! How do I get this all done, where do I start, so I picked one room and started in a corner, then I did the next thing and the next thing and slowly without realizing it the large task seemed to be complete. I also realized that as christians we are similar we can't fix ourselves in one day, it takes time my spiritual walk is slow but I concentrate on one thing at a time! God has been a blessing to me and I hope the same for you!

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