The Next Thing

Every night I curl up in bed with my Kindle or a paperback book and read until I can’t keep my eyes open.

Recently I was reading Take Three, from the Above the Line Series by Karen Kingsbury. Keith, one of the main characters of the book, had just received devastating news. His life, which an hour ago was brimming with excitement and promise, seemed headed for disaster. He and his wife were alone in their living room, and the story goes like this:
He leaned his head against hers and remembered a sermon a year ago, something he’d forgotten until now.

“Remember what Pastor Hastings said awhile back?” Keith’s voice held a calm that he still didn’t quite feel. “He said sometimes life gets too complicated to figure it out on your own. When that happens, God has to do the figuring.”

“Mmm.” Lisa eased her arm around his waist and pressed her body close to him. “I remember.”

“And while God does the figuring, there’s only one thing we can do.”

He felt Lisa smile. “The next thing.”

“Right. We just do the next thing and let God reveal the bigger answers.”
I stopped reading. I thought back over times when my life had become so complicated that I had no idea what to do. Like the day I heard the doctor utter the words, “You have cancer. And I don’t think they’re going to be able to get it all out.”

My prayer, uttered in the recesses of my mind, was “Dear Lord, help!” I instinctively did the next thing and headed for home. My husband was there to greet me.

“How did it go? Everything okay?”

“No. I’ve got cancer.”

Our lives had hit a wall. Suddenly everything was so complicated. How would we survive?

We hugged. And we prayed. But although our prayers brought a measure of calm, no heavenly voice told us what to do. So we did the next thing. We phoned our sons. Then we phoned my brother and asked him to tell my mother. We phoned the medical aid to get clearance for surgery. Then we made supper.

It all seemed surreal. All we could do was move forward, one hesitant foot in front of the other. We took the following step. Did what had to be done. Kept doing the next thing. And somehow, we survived. God brought us through. Today, over sixteen years later, we look back with wonder and joy.

Joseph, the colourful character in the Old Testament, was thrown into a pit by his jealous brothers. He must have wondered what his future held. He was no longer able to make plans. He became a slave, and he rose in rank. He held an important position, but then he landed in jail through no fault of his own. He couldn’t figure out what God wanted of him. So he did what he had to do. He saw guards and other prisoners in need, and he stepped forward and helped them. One step. Then the next. Eventually he became the second highest ruler in Egypt. He saved the nation, and his brothers and father, from starvation. But he did it one step at a time.

As you step into a new year, and everyone around is wishing you “a Happy New Year!” perhaps you are really facing a wall. Are you wondering how you will ever get out of the mess you are in? How you will survive the year? It doesn’t need to be a cancer diagnosis. How about your finances? Are the bills far higher than your bank balance? Your career? Do you face unemployment? Your family? Is there a relationship that needs your attention?

Stop struggling. Hand it over to God. Leave it up to Him. And while He’s doing the figuring, you do the next thing—whatever that may be. Before you know it, God may have opened the way for you. Perhaps this time next year you will look back and marvel at how you survived. It may only be a tiny step. You may not see how it will help. But do the next thing.

And thank you Karen Kingsbury for this thought-provoking lesson! It all goes to show the power of a good story.