Confused? Overwhelmed? “Do the Next Right Thing”

Jun 18, 2012

I opened the email and read the question. Immediately my mind jumped 10 years ahead. All the “what ifs” and “what could be” filled my thoughts. I allowed my concerns with what others might think, my schedule, my desires, the future unknowns to pile up and paralyze me.

“Much of this confusion arises from taking too long view. We think of years rather than of moments… It is hard to plan a year’s duty; it is easy to plan just for one short day. No shoulder can bear up the burden of a year’s cares—all gathered up into one load! But the weakest shoulder can carry without weariness—just what really belongs to one day.” J.R.Miller 1888

When I consulted a wise friend on how to handle the email, she gave me this advice: “Do the next right thing”.

photo credit (edited with picmonkey)

The “next right thing” in this situation was to simply answer the question. Not to be  concerned with the uncontrollable, unknown future but to focus on the immediate information at hand. I wasn’t answering future questions or making a commitment. I only needed to deal with the next step.

Read these words from Elisabeth Elliot’s on this concept:

“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.

Have you had the experience of feeling as if you’ve got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can’t possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself.

Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea.

The poem says, “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.” That is a wonderfully saving truth. Just do the next thing.

I don’t know what your days look like. I don’t know what demands are tossed your way. In my home, constant requests are being made: “Mommy, I need you to help with my shoes”, “Mommy, can I have a snack”, “Mommy, I spilled my drink”, “waaahhhhhh (3-month old wanting to eat)”, “Mommy, brother has a dirty diaper”…

I often joke: “Your request will be answered in the order in which it was received”. In truth, this is the only way to remain sane in a busy home. To address one request at a time. To continually do the next thing.

I noticed my friend’s advice was “do the next right thing”. Whereas the ancient poem simply stated: “do the next thing.” By following all of the advice given in the Saxon poem, then doing the next thing would be doing the “right” thing. Here are the full instructions given in the poem:

  • Pray*
  • Have faith (casting all care)
  • Look for God’s hand
  • Trust Him with the results

Through prayer in faith, looking for where God is working, and trusting Him to handle the results of any decision we make, we are free to “do the next thing”. The next thing becomes the next right thing.

What decision do you have to make this week, today, in the next hour? Now what is the next right thing to do? Do it!

“Resist the allure of self pity, and just take the next step of obedience. We are typically given enough grace just for the next step. Fret not about what lies around the bend. Perform faithfully the next step, and we will make it home safely in the end.” Professor Ray Van Neste

*Pray: “Direct my footsteps according to Your Word” Psalm 119:133


  1. Ashley

    I needed these words today…feeling beyond overwhelmed on little sleep. Thank you for sharing. One step at a time…revealing His strength through my weakness. Miss seeing your sweet face every other week!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh sister! so good to see you tonight, even if just for a hug and a smile. Pray you were able to put those sweet girls to bed, one step at a time. be blessed!

  2. heatherhaupt

    God has been encouraging me with this very same thing lately as I’m tempted to give in to my feelings of being overwhelmed. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit used your blog, which I stumbled upon today, to confirm His ever consistent direction in my life. A beautiful post!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh I am so excited when I hear stories like yours of God bringing you to this place to hear His voice in your life. Thank you for taking the time to share that with me. Thank you for your encouragement.

  3. Melissa

    Your friend’s words are definitely the simplest thing to focus on, for both me and my husband as we face a few unknowns, but they are known to God, he knows the destination. All we need to do is enjoy and endure the journey.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Lord, I lift up Melissa and her husband. I pray you would give them peace in the midst of the waiting. Give them faith in You and Your plan. Thank you for her perspective to enjoy and endure the journey she is on. Bless her Lord. Amen.


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