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Elisabeth Elliot: Just Do the Next Thing

Elisabeth Elliot

From our team: This July, we’re zeroing in on the topic of obedience. What lies do we believe about obeying God? And more importantly, what is God’s Truth about it? Our bloggers are seeking to answer that question over the next few weeks. Today, our new friend Vaneetha is sharing some timeless advice: Obedience may be simpler than you think.

I was barely functional for months on end.

Participating in a clinical trial for post-polio last year left me exhausted, struggling with crushing fatigue and discouragement. I felt constantly drained and overwhelmed. So many things were left undone. My desk, piled with things to do, seemed too daunting to even approach. I often wondered, Where do I start? Since I can’t do everything, should I even bother to do anything?

As I often sat at the table pondering my options, I would remember this advice from Elisabeth Elliot. Advice that took me through numerous trials and countless days. Days when I felt inundated and didn’t know what to do. Days when it seemed impossible to accomplish anything.

Do the next thing.

A Clear Direction

These four simple words fueled me through the mundane and the monumental. Somehow they brought clarity and strength when I needed it. Direction when I felt overwhelmed.

They provided me a framework after my son died. “Do the next thing” meant take a shower. Write the obituary. Plan a funeral. And after the initial flood of activity, it was invaluable advice in grieving when I still had the daily tasks of life before me. Make dinner. Beg God for grace. Do the laundry. Read the Bible. Call a friend. Take a nap.

And then years later, wondering how I was going to make it as a single parent, I followed the same advice. I was obsessing and lamenting over how our broken home would affect my children. Would they love God? How would they process their pain? How could I even maintain a household in the midst of insanity?

All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. Give in to self-pity. Make it all go away. But I knew that I needed to face what was before me. I couldn’t hide.

I would ask God for strength, and then do the next thing. Make dinner. Drive them to their game. Prepare my Bible study lesson. Pray with them at night. There was no sense worrying about the future. I couldn’t control it anyway. I could just do the next thing.

And each time, by just doing the next thing, I was able to make it through. I had just enough light for the next step. But that was sufficient. It was all that I needed. More information would not have been helpful.

I had to do the next thing in the strength that God provided. And trust He would supply what I needed. While the future looked dim and unknown, I knew that everything was under His loving sovereign control. I had to take God’s hand in the dark, trust He would guide me, and then act on the information I had in front of me.