When All You Can Do Is ‘Do the Next Thing’

Do the next thing

When I learned earlier this week of the passing of author Elisabeth Ellliot, a warm rush of gratitude washed over me — gratitude for what her life had taught me and for the joy she must be feeling now that she is reunited with those she loves and is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Last fall, I wrote a piece about Elliot as part of the challenge to write for 31 days. Here is that essay ~

In the days when my life was filled with diapers, alphabet cards, math books, stinky boys’ gym socks and  the never-ending question “what will I make for dinner?”. . . .

When it felt like I’d never see the laundry room floor, never get to read that book waiting on the shelf or find a moment to paint my nails and talk on the phone with a friend. . . .

In those halcyon days of young motherhood, these words dropped into my lap:

“Do the next thing.”

For a long time, I thought they were first said by a favorite author, Elisabeth Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot
Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth’s biography of Amy Carmichael “A Chance to Die” was pivotal in my growth as a woman of God. Her personal account of her marriage to her first husband, Jim, and his death on the mission field was one of those books I longed for time to read during busy mothering days.

In researching Elisabeth for an essay awhile back, I learned that the words she often quoted came from a poem whose author is unknown. Those four words carried me through many a long day, and they still come to mind when I’m overwhelmed with too much to do, or when I am downtrodden and just do not know what to do. At those times, I still tell myself:

“Do the next thing.”

My research on Elisabeth turned up a treasure which I want to share with you here along with the words of that life-altering poem. Twenty years ago, in 1994, Elisabeth included the poem in her ministry’s newsletter. That newsletter is available for download and it includes more of this fine woman’s teaching. (You can find it here.) Elisabeth is 87 and she and her husband, Lars, no longer travel and teach, but at her Web site are links to her devotionals and radio broadcasts.

And here is that lovely poem:

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 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 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

5 Comments

  1. Tara

    Ingrid, thanks for sharing that poem. I don’t think I’ve ever read it before. So much THIS: “Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,, Trust them with Jesus — DO THE NEXT THING” Her words and yours are a gift to me tonight friend!

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