When You Don’t Know What To Do

When I sat down this week to write this post for the school blog, I stared at the blank Word document for a long time.  What can I say during a time when everyday life has changed so drastically?  The lighthearted Spring Break post I had planned to write a few weeks ago does not really fit now.  As I sat and considered, I remembered a story I had heard about Elisabeth Elliott.

Elisabeth Elliott was a missionary in Ecuador in the 1950s when her husband, Jim, and four other missionaries were killed during their attempt to reach a remote tribe with the Gospel. After her husband’s death, Elisabeth returned to their mission field with her young daughter and continued the work.  She said that when she returned, she did not know exactly what to do. There were many tasks that she was not prepared for or trained to do but that needed to be done.  The jungle airstrip needed to be maintained, the diesel generator kept in working order, and the new believers trained to lead the church.  She was overwhelmed.  What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  Elisabeth told of a poem that helped guide her in this time of great uncertainty and transition.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea

There came in the twilight a message for 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.

Unknown Source

Do the next thing.  It’s such a simple idea, but one that has helped me this week as I transition to new habits and schedule and daily life.  Like Elisabeth Elliott, we, too, are facing a time where we are being asked to do things that we were not prepared for or trained to do.  Teachers need to create remote learning that is engaging and instructive with little training or time for preparation.  Students need to learn how to do school without the teacher present to offer help and to plan their time in new ways.  Parents need to manage a house full of children and working adults who all need the Wi-Fi and computer at the same time, to provide more help with school, and to manage all of their usual tasks in completely new ways.  We are looking for toilet paper and listening to news and learning how to social distance.  If we sit down and look at all the days and weeks ahead, it could be overwhelming.  But, the words of the poem hold true: “Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King, Trust them with Jesus. Do the next thing.”  Scripture says it like this:

“Trust in the Lord and do good”

Psalm 37:3

What is the “next thing” we need to do?  For me, today, it was writing this blog post.  For others, it might be tackling a math assignment, practicing an instrument, using Zoom for a work meeting, or cooking dinner for the family.  The next thing might be something big, or it might be a small everyday task like laundry.  But regardless of the tasks and the uncertainty, we can pray, trust Jesus, and do the next thing.

picture of blonde woman at sunrise or sunset looking into nature surrounded by trees wearing a red scarf and a jean jacket