What should I do next? That question has often left me in a tizzy trying to figure out which item on my very-important-to-do-right-now list ought to be the next thing to receive my attention. Yes, I’ve read the books on prioritizing. Yes, I usually make a physical, written list of all that needs to be accomplished in a day. But, my lists always seem to have the word urgent beside each item. How do I choose what to do next?
A few months ago as I was cleaning out some files, I can across a copy of a page out of an old devotional book that was sent to me by my mother years ago. It contains an ancient poem that sums up what one must do on those occasions when it seems impossible to do anything. It simply says to do the next thing. I’m going to take the liberty of quoting the poem in its entirety here. The original author is anonymous.
Doe the Nexte Thynge
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
It’s quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DOE THE NEXTE THYNGE.”
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, doe the nexte thynge.
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 resulting, doe the nexte thynge.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be they 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, doe the nexte thynge.
Did you have plans that got shot out of the water before 9 a.m. today? Me too. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Is your hand empty? “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Still not sure where to turn next? Isaiah 30:21 makes it clear that God will show you which direction to go—if you listen to him. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
So, what’s next? Is the baby’s diaper emanating a stench? Change it. Is your fifth grader stuck on the mysteries of making equivalent fractions? Teach her how. Will your husband be home for dinner in an hour? Put supper in the oven. Find the next thing to do, and then do it. The longer you spend agonizing over what to do, the more time you waste. Just do the next thing.