You’ve probably heard the adage, “Just do the next right thing.” In the midst of confusion or overwhelm, it’s a great reminder that we can’t do everything, but we can do something. And what we do makes a difference.
Knowing what the Next Right Thing is may sometimes seem difficult. So many factors are competing for space in your mind. The world – your little personal world and the world at large – is complicated. Your heart asks for more. The pile you must sort through may look something like this:
- Your own fatigue, loneliness, anxiety, or fear
- People you care about (spouse, children, other family, good friends) who need you
- A sense of something bigger you are called to (fighting evil in some way – terrorism, human trafficking, poverty, environmental issues, etc.)
- Your desire for “balance” – whatever that is
- Personal baggage that seems to hold you back
- Personal or family health issues
- Others’ expectations of you (job, family, church, etc.)
- A vague feeling of not really doing what God has called you to do
You may have written down goals at the beginning of this year that have long been forgotten, but leave you frustrated and feeling like a failure. You may feel as though you’re disappointing God or family or others. You may feel overwhelmed with the load life has thrown on you right now.
I have felt a lot of that myself in recent days. My current load includes preparing for our new TV show, working around my husband’s doctor’s visits and my work at the hospital, writing deadlines, trying to enjoy the holiday season, and taking care of my own mental and spiritual health. There are plenty of times I wrestle with how to know what to focus on.
When confusion, overwhelm, or fatigue overtakes you, it may be a sign that you’re spending too much energy on things that aren’t really that important. It may also be that you’re up against the resistance that always comes when you are growing, or making a difference for God’s kingdom.
How to Know What Next Right Thing to Do
Here are a few things I’ve learned that are important in continuing to do the Next Right Thing:
- Invest in your Heart. Any value you have to those around you, or to God’s kingdom, comes primarily from who are more than what you do. Before anything else, it’s important to continue your process of becoming. Nurture your inner heart first and most. That means dealing with old baggage, spending time around people who elevate you, learning new things, finding rest and refreshment, and spending time growing spiritually. How well you come through the tough times will be in direct measure to how strong your inner heart is.
- Take the Long View. Making a positive impact on others, and leaving behind a life of significance, doesn’t happen by accident. It may be important to hang the holiday wreath on the front door. But that’s not as important as being sure my husband and I complete a difficult conversation when needed, or hearing God’s voice about something He wants to grow in my character. You don’t need to micromanage every moment of your life; that doesn’t work anyway. But think about what impact you want your life to have, and make decisions accordingly.
- Look how far you’ve come. Joyce Meyers likes to say, “I’m not where I want to be. But Thank God I’m not where I used to be!” I kept a journal during some of the most difficult times in my life, and if I ever need to feel like God has grown me, all I have to do is read a few pages. In the book Hinds Feet on High Places the traveler Much-Afraid picks up stones to remind her of precious times when the Shepherd has brought her through a tough spot on her journey. Do something to remind you of where God has led you in the past, and how He has grown you.
- Remember, God’s God and You’re Not! One follower of Jesus said it this way: “He’s in management: I’m just in sales.” You’re responsible for listening, obeying, growing, and trusting. God is responsible for the outcome. If you’re like me, it’s hard to not care about the outcome. Perhaps that’s OK, as long as you and I remember that we can’t control anyone or anything except ourselves. You and I are only human. The longer you live, the more you will likely come to realize your own limits. And hopefully you will also come to realize the bigness of our God!
- Keep on Doing the Next Right Thing. There is a point where you need to take action. Perhaps that action is to say “I’m sorry” to someone you’ve hurt. Or get some sleep so you can think more clearly. Or take a walk. Or write that difficult email. Or create a plan to get out of debt. Or spend a dedicated hour working on a project you believe God has put in front of you. Your timeline, your frustration, your desire for a given outcome, your fatigue – all that can be adjusted. But what you must decide to never compromise on is getting back up when you fall and once again doing the Next Right Thing.
So today, I know the five things that I absolutely must get done. How the rest of the holiday season goes, how my husband’s health is next week, or what this ministry looks like next year – that’s really in God’s hands anyway.
But in the meantime, I’m committed to just doing the Next Right Thing.
What’s YOUR Next Right Thing?
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