Do the Next Thing

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Listen to “Do the Next Thing” by Fred Smith

 

Now and then I host what Quakers call a Clearness Committee for an individual working their way through an issue about direction or a decision. This committee is a group of friends who know a person well and the group’s only role is to ask questions. They cannot make statements or prescribe what a person should do. They cannot offer advice based on what they think they would do.

The Quakers have a high regard for a person’s ability with the aid of insightful questions to come to the truth on their own.

Last week a friend was sorting through an issue that affects all of us at one time or another. She has a fine career and was suddenly sideswiped by a loss of confidence. It was not depression as much as a deflation. She had lost her sense of hope and belief in her own skills. All she could see was being stuck and immobilized – or worse. It’s often called the “imposter syndrome” or the fear of being found out as not being as competent as everyone thought.

I didn’t say this in the group – that’s against the rules – but I later sent her this bookmark from a poem I like:

It is His will that I should cast

My care on Him each day;

He also bids me not to cast

My confidence away.

But oh! how foolishly I act

When taken unaware,

I cast away my confidence

And carry all my care!

I don’t believe my friend is alone in this. We lose our confidence and carry all our cares. I know it happens to me.

It must be a general condition as it is addressed often in Scripture. So many of the men and women we consider spiritual giants have suffered from it. Abraham loses confidence in God’s promise of a son. Moses loses confidence immediately and tries to get out of what God has called him to do. Gideon discounts his abilities to fight the Midianites. Elijah hides in a cave. The Samaritan woman slights her worth. Peter denies Christ and despairs. David is discouraged almost as much as he is sure. Solomon despairs of everything, and Job is a whole book about dealing with confidence in God and inexplicable loss.

Yet, when it happens to them we find a way to overlook and skip through or even over spiritualize it.   With us, however, it is considered a serious flaw in our character.

How often does God says, “fear not” or “trust in my everlasting love” or “when you walk through deep waters I will be there”? But, it’s not enough to hear it one time, is it? The author Frederick Buechner wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” He’s right. The world is broken and we are subject to fear, discouragement and loss of confidence. If an epiphany is a sudden confirmation out of the blue, what do we call its opposite? How do we account for those unsuspected moments when we stall and go flat?

Get Up And Go On

For me, one of the most helpful writers is Oswald Chambers. He’s not easy to read some mornings when I need an excuse for the way I am feeling or want just to coast. Still, I come back to this time and again:

“In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once they realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, ‘Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.’

If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, ‘Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing…’

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing— they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, ‘Get up, and do the next thing.’ If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.”

So far, I have found nothing better for those times when I feel I have done something irreversible or lost my confidence. “Get up, and do the next thing.”

Art by Vincent Van Gogh

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Showing 16 comments
  • Avatar
    John Thomas
    Reply

    Magnificent and so helpful. I sent this today to a wonderfully competent lady in a high-level job who is doubting her abilities and relevance.
    Thanks so much.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. The fact it is you sending it will have as much effect as the blog itself.

  • Avatar
    Sam
    Reply

    Nice
    “But get up and let’s go on to the next thing.”
    A good reminder of future opportunities to serve in future Kingdom Work.
    As Paul wrote:
    “[F]orgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth into those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of GOD in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thanks, Sam. We have so many second chances!

  • Avatar
    David Park
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred! I am encouraged by your reflections each week. This one hit home in a special way. Thank you.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, David. I appreciate your writing.

  • Avatar
    WALT
    Reply

    Maybe that’s why we have two eyes in the front of our head and none in the back. Maybe we really do need to focus on the future rather than the rear view.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Good one, Walt! The only time I needed eyes in the back of my head was when I taught junior high students.

  • Avatar
    John Sims
    Reply

    Well put, Fred — as always! Thanks for the fresh insight on an ages-old challenge.

  • Avatar
    Sue Saxenmeyer
    Reply

    Thank you Fred…it’s comforting to know that others feel the way I do so often. And that there’s a ready remedy for it. I am keeping this post, and am sure to listen to it again — the next time!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Sue. It’s another good reason to read Oswald Chambers. Sometimes he is a little “stiff upper lip” for me but then he writes pieces like this that are so encouraging for those of us who have fallen asleep!

  • Avatar
    Brian
    Reply

    Wonderfully encouraging. Thank you Fred!

  • Avatar
    Donnie Brake
    Reply

    So very perfect and true! Thank you. I’ve been involved in athletics most of my life and we use the term “having a short memory”. That is just what you are describing here. Thank you!

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