7 min read

The Blues

The Blues

Have you ever had the “after holiday blues” or possibly the “winter blues”?  Are the grey days getting you down?  Could it be, that I’m not the only one just laying around?  Now that the social gatherings with friends and families have subsided, along with the many demands of shopping and decorating, I presently have the time to surmise that I ate too much.  Furthermore, the enthusiasm of the new year has worn off and as an outcome, I am finding it hard to conjure up the motivation to get moving once again.  We all can imagine what that might look like — right!  See anyone you know in this picture?

Okay, I realize that there may be one or two of you watching me for inspiration or maybe even looking for a little momentum to spur you on.  So with my head held high I am ready to rush forward with abandonment, to make a splash…CHARGE! Oh wait, the splash was there, but I still didn’t move.  As I watched these seals lying in the sun in San Diego I had to laugh, because truthfully it was all too easy to relate.

In keeping true to my goal for this year, I do want to slow down and observe more, well, perhaps not quite as slow as these seals.  I guess though, I have come to the point where I need to ask myself the honest question of “why”.  Why is it so hard to get going at times?  That is not say I do not still get up to go to work.  Actually, I am still managing to provide myself with those life sustaining meals, but nonetheless, I still find it hard to get off the couch these days.  I recognize that there are several thieves hiding in the shadows that can steal from me the drive and the passion to make the most of my todays; laziness, fear also known as anxiety, or it maybe it is just the lack of a plan.  I have no intention to add to the many self-help “How Too” lists floating through cyber space, but if you will indulge me, I would like to share with you four unembellished words that helped me to get up and get going again; “DO THE NEXT THING”.

Those four simple words comprise one of the most practical life lessons I have learned. Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015) lived this wonderful principle in the good times, the mundane times and even through the tragic times.  She had been a missionary as well as one who continued in ministry throughout her life.  I had the opportunity to meet this amazing woman, and it was the unceasing truths of God’s word that she lived and shared with others that has continued to teach and mentor me through the years, even from afar.  She popularized the following old poem.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

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 results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy 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, do the next thing.

Do the next thing,” sometimes the plain answers can be the most profound. However, in order to truly benefit from this edict, I realize the need to first identify the thief robbing me of my spark and keeping me down.

As a door swings back and forth on its hinges, so the lazy person turns over in bed. Proverbs 26

There can be times in life when we all may need extra rest, although, that is not what this proverb is implying.  Lazy, the word can sound so harsh … I would not really say I am lazy, maybe I would say that I am “chill”, or possibly, I can say I enjoy times when I can “kick back”, or I like to “dillydally”, and of course sometimes I just need to “veg out”. It is funny how we can come up with other descriptive words that can soften the blow of the true meaning of the word “lazy”, or possibly even look at being lazy with one eye closed.  Even so, in the end, the conclusion is the same; my days aimlessly pass me by.  Here I still sit, and yet, calling to me are the words; “Do the next thing”.  Could it be that I am being lazy?  Or could it be a different culprit?

One of the most powerful thieves that can spoil your zeal is anxiety.  Fear is a money making business.  The news peddles it like a drug on every corner, preying on the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting listeners.  I am amazed at how many people are on anxiety medications from the very old to the very very young.  How has this happened?  As I look around, I have observed that knowing how too critically think and the art of asking penetrating questions are rarely taught anymore.  It is no longer noted that actions have consequences.  Perpetuating the victim mentality, we have given up our resiliency, our strength and our freedom. As a result, we are always looking for someone else to rescue us from problems.  I have additionally noticed how our society loves fictional “super heroes” but these “super heroes” are not real.  Although entertaining, no one is truly inspired to rise above their own circumstances.  Unlike Elizabeth Elliot, who was a real life hero. She continues to motivate me every day.  In spite of insurmountable hardship, never giving up, her selfless choices continue to encourage the lives of many people throughout the world all these years later.

Her writings stand as an example of a life well lived even through the worst of difficulties:

“When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent [to a 10 month old baby daughter] and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing.”

Moreover, doing the next thing, is as unconditional as praying, always being assured that “the Lord is near”.

Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.  And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Philippians 4

Not having a plan is another thief that will whittle away your day.  Not knowing what to do, I can in turn — do nothing.  However, even without a plan, the next thing can be as straightforward as making the bed.  Following that, the very next thing can move on to cleaning a room in the house or tackling the dirty dishes.  I have experienced, that as I start the regular tasks of removing the clutter before me, a plan can develop.  The bonus being, in the meantime my house becomes more organized in the process.

A plan (motive, wise counsel) in the heart of a man is like water in a deep well, But a man of understanding draws it out. Proverbs 20

The ability to do the next thing is forever present before us and it will cause all our thieves to once more retreat back to the shadows.  The secret to doing this effectively, lies in the stated instructions from the poem above; “Do it immediately, do it with prayer; do it reliantly, casting all care; do it with reverence”, and continually do it by “looking for Jesus”.  In His presence you will find; His true rest, His light in our gloom and His much needed strength. The simple tasks lead to the simple answers, which, so often are the most profound. With each step we take, the breath of new life [His life] energizes us.

Do the next thing.  So, what is the next thing for you?  I know for me, the next thing will be trusting in Jesus.  I will choose to leap up over and over and over again as I fly to Him throughout this year!

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. Proverbs 16