Jan Johnson

Wisbit - February 2015

“Trust God & Do the Next Thing”

The book Abandoned to God, the biography of Oswald Chambers (who wrote My Utmost for His Highest and many other books) is full of wisdom as well as being an interesting story. One of Chambers’ favorite sayings was: “Trust God and do the next thing.” He lived this whether he was starting a new training college or serving as a WW1 military chaplain to soldiers facing the Egyptian desert (many of whom would be dead by the next week). I find myself saying that phrase a lot these days in moments such as these.

  • when I find myself thinking about something in the past that I wish I could change. It’s better to accept what cannot be changed and clear our mind of past debris. (Besides, when I linger in the past, I can easily distort what actually happened.)
  • when I start wondering what will happen in the future -- will things turn out alright? Or to my advantage? When writing a book proposal, I had to work hard not to be consumed with: Will this proposal be accepted? Focusing on the possible payoff makes me self-centered and drains me of energy for engaging with full purposeful intentionality the task at hand.
  • (similarly) when I’m focusing on outcomes instead of processes. Caring for my family by doing the wash can be as pleasurable as just getting it done.
  • when I concern myself with what someone else is doing, saying or might do. That’s someone else’s side of the street, not mine. Instead, I shift to doing the next thing with rightness of heart, blessing others, and depending on God with everything I’ve got.
  • when distractions take over (buy this item, spend time doing this trivial thing). I can surrender them and become free to immerse myself in the next task.
  • when I start to shut down because the task or situation seems too overwhelming. “Doing the next thing” means focusing on the next bite-size portion of the task and tackle that one small thing.
  • when I’m making things too complicated (even though I know about abundant simplicity).
  • when I’m living in my head and missing out on the tangible beauty in front of me-the colors of the sunset.

“Trust God and do the next thing” helps me live in this present moment. Then I can easily shift to living out the Great Commandment (Luke 10:27). My husband says I repeat this paraphrase too often - that’s because I need it too often.

  • What does it look like to love God for the next 10 minutes?
  • What does it look like to love the person in front of me for the next 10 minutes?

Then I approach my current companion or task with energy, relying on God to help me perceive what is in front of my eyes, hear the words said to me, or notice the deeds done in front of me. And to be grateful for it all. “This is the moment which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24).

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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