Do the Next Thing

Ruth Davidar Paul   |   October 9, 2019 

Waiting. Now that’s a word I never like to hear. I wish that seasons of waiting were never something God placed in my life. Yet, inevitably, they arrive willy-nilly, more often than not when I’m looking forward to something. That really makes me chomp at the bit. After the usual arguing with God (foolish, I know), I’ve found that I generally respond in two ways. I call them the Sarah Syndrome and the Saul Complex.

The Sarah Syndrome harkens back to when Sarah (Mrs. Abraham from the Bible) decided to help God when His timing didn’t match hers. We know the story -- God had promised them a child, yet after more than a decade of waiting, still no child had arrived. Abraham was well into his 80s, Sarah was probably going through menopause if not having experienced it already. The stark facts staring them in their aging faces were indicating an unpleasant reality.

Since God had promised, they did not doubt that it would happen. But perhaps God needed a little assistance . . . So Sarah decided to stop waiting around and helped God fulfil His promise (Genesis 16:1–6). The inevitable mess with Hagar and Ishmael were not only the short-term consequences for her impatience; the long-term ones are being experienced even today.

I'm not far behind in my response actually. When I know God has promised me something, I want it to happen according to my timeline. And when it doesn't, I've given in and taken matters into my own hands -- helping God, or so I think. This has only caused me more heartache and more waiting. I've had to relearn this lesson several times. When God promises something, He will ensure it happens -- especially when circumstances look like nothing is going the way it's supposed to. God will come through, even if it requires a miracle for that to happen.

Perhaps you're waiting for your spouse to become a believer, or you're waiting to conceive, or waiting to get married, or waiting for a breakthrough in a difficult relationship, or for an injustice to be righted, or for that one family member to come to salvation. If God has promised you that He will come through, trust His word. He does not lie. Nevertheless, be willing to wait, for His timing is the best.

It's not easy. Believe me I know. And because it's so hard, if I'm not demonstrating the Sarah Syndrome, I've ended up displaying the Saul Complex. We all know King Saul -- him of the spear-throwing, murderous rampaging. Yet, he started out really excellently. He was handpicked by God to be the first king of Israel. Imagine that! This nation had only ever had Yahweh as their King, so the first human king had very large shoes to fill (metaphorically speaking). But God thought he could do it, and he did start off depending on God for everything. Then slowly he grew self-confident, caring more about how people viewed him, rather than how God did. The fear of man is a crippling, sin-inducing phenomenon that turned Saul from a peace-loving, benevolent ruler into a psychotic obsessive with a murderous impulse.

It began at an innocuous function -- Saul needed to wait for Samuel to come and perform a sacrifice before they went to war. He waited a week, and the people began to get restless. Probably some said he wasn't being a good leader, perhaps they thought he was a bit of a waffler, or that he was afraid to go to battle, that he wasn't being decisive. Whatever it was, the Bible says that the people were beginning to leave Saul (I Samuel 13:8–14).

Losing the support of the people so terrified Saul that he disobeyed God outright by offering the sacrifice himself, something only the priests were allowed to do. He needed to show the people that he was doing something constructive and decisive, something to revive their flagging courage, a symbolic gesture to build morale -- the only problem was it was the wrong gesture to make. Saul feared the people more than he feared God, so he disobeyed and that led to his ultimate downfall.

I too have disobeyed God during times of waiting. Instead of trusting Him and His ways, I've often allowed my fears to dictate my actions -- disobedient actions. For instance, with my husband, when God has told me to wait and be silent, I have disobeyed by nagging him to do what I think he ought to be doing. Obviously, that hasn't achieved the desired result but rather created more conflict. My disobedience reveals that firstly, I don't trust God to come through, and secondly, that I don't fear Him enough to obey Him. These are unpalatable truths to realise about oneself but they are nonetheless true.

So now that I know what pitfalls to avoid while waiting is there anything I can do during these seasons?

Stop focusing on myself for one! It's so easy to become obsessed with waiting for God to answer my prayer for my situation that I can become oblivious to the daily struggles and pain and brokenness that others around me are experiencing. Many times God has had to shake me out of my self-preoccupation by bringing me face-to-face with the difficult realities that others are undergoing. And when I come out of this "me-focused" coma, He has led me to "do the next thing" as Elisabeth Elliott said. She borrowed the phrase from this old Saxon poem who's author is unknown. The verse that struck me, I’ve mentioned below –

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 tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

“Fear not tomorrow . . . trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.” God has reminded me time and again that while I’m waiting, I can “do the next thing.” Not take matters into my own hands and “help” God like Sarah, nor fear the future and disobey Him like Saul. Rather, do the next thing that is right in God’s eyes. It might be as simple as meeting a friend for coffee, or helping my daughter do her homework, or cleaning out the cupboards, or visiting that friend who’s been sick, or giving tuitions to neighbourhood children, or refusing to nag my husband!

Whatever it may look like to you, however small and mundane it might be, do the next thing. Stop focusing on yourself and how long God is taking to fulfil His promise. Stop asking when He is going to come through. He already has -- on the cross! Focus on God instead. Ask Him to reveal who He is. Seek Him, understand Him. Focus on the people He has placed around you. Focus on their needs. See what you can do for them.

And before you know it time will fly by.

 

Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

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Ruth Davidar Paul is a freelance copy editor and content developer, who loves rummaging through used books stores and collecting old books. Apart from filling her home with overflowing bookcases, she enjoys deep conversations, jigsaw puzzles, painting, and daydreaming. She currently lives in Chennai with her husband Abhishek and their children Abigail, Jordan, and Amy.

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2 comments on “Do the Next Thing”

  1. Thank you, Ruth! This is a such a timely reminder for me. And I never knew where that phrase came from -- I will definitely be be adding this poem to my repertoire!

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