Updated: Sep 23, 2019
"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.”
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God used this beautiful, old Saxon poem to encourage Elisabeth Elliot after the death of her dear husband. Elisabeth's first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca of eastern Ecuador. She later spent two years as a missionary to the tribe members who killed her husband (Wikipedia). Here are her words from a radio broadcast about how she learned to just do the next thing:
"When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing." (emphasis mine)
She also pondered and treasured this verse from Isaiah 50:7:
“The Lord God will help me; therefore, shall I not be confounded. Therefore, have I set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”
Elisabeth's life looked drastically different in a matter of moments. Her focus had to change. Did she choose to be overwhelmed and paralyzed? Nope. Was she confounded, confused, distraught? Nope. She completely trusted in God. And she just did the next thing.
So. Are you overwhelmed with life? Are you paralyzed by the to-do list in front of you? Do you think you just can't find the time to get your junk done, declutter your home, prepare a nice meal, etc.? Well, ponder this a minute. If you think you have an insurmountable to-do list, this might put things into perspective and help teach you to just do the next thing.
When Elisabeth became a widow, she immediately acquired a whole different to-do list which she was thoroughly unprepared for. Among the items on her list was the following:
• learn how to be a single mother to a 10 month old daughter
• teach two young men to lead the church (these two were handpicked by Jim before
he died; Elisabeth taught them the Scriptures so they could preach the Word to the
• figure out how to run the diesel motor/generator
• become foreman & hire 40 Indians with machetes to keep airstrip clean
• continue teaching women's literacy class
• supervise, encourage, and pay for Ecuadorian teacher who taught at the boys' school
• take over medical work
• finish translating the book of Luke from English into Quichua; (Elisabeth and Jim had finished this only in rough draft form when he died)
• keep hiring men to cut the grass (grows super fast in the jungle), clean out the
pineapple bed, and cut the branches away from the trail between the house and
• decide what to do about a hydroelectric system she & Jim had just started to install
For two long years, Elisabeth just did the next thing on the mission field for that little tribe in Ecuador. She trusted in a God who loved her and knew all along this would happen. She chose to carry on in the midst of tremendous grief. After hearing the news, she went back to her station, took her 10 month old little girl, and "tried to take each duty quietly as the will of God for the moment."
What is the next thing for you to do? Small duties, perhaps? Jobs that nobody will notice as long as you do them? A dirty job that you would get out of if you could have your own preferences? Are you asked to take some great responsibility, which you really don’t feel qualified to do? You don’t have to do the whole thing right this minute, do you? I can tell you one thing that you do have to do right this minute. It’s the one thing that is required of all of us every minute of every day. Trust in the living God.
There is much wisdom in trusting in a sovereign, living God. And there is much wisdom in carrying on with the task set before us, with the responsibilities God has given us, doing the best job possible for His glory with a good attitude. Our attitude should be one of thankfulness in spite of difficult circumstances, and a willingness to tackle what we need to.
In the next few weeks and months, I'll be sharing with you my method of simplifying your space, of decluttering your home. Now, I'm not a betting girl, but I think it would be safe to say that your to-do list doesn't look quite as daunting as Elizabeth's did after her husband passed, but it could still be a list that is greatly overwhelming and debilitating. Some might say it is silly to use her circumstances as a comparison, but I disagree. Remember that old & overused adage, how do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time? Same thing applies here. How do you tackle an overwhelming to-do list with many demands that can be paralyzing at times? Learn from Elisabeth. Just do the next thing.
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For Howse to House,