Do the Next Thing
From Gospel Translations
This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness. ―Elisabeth Elliot
Elisabeth Elliot was my spiritual mother, and this week she died.
I was raised by a wonderful earthly mother and father who were practical, down-to-earth, gracious, and hard-working. Sadly, my parents, by their own admission, were not born again. The things my parents taught me, though often right and important, were simply about developing character and strength, civility and manners, hard work and independence so that I would contribute positively to society. These lessons are good and right, and probably needed today more than ever, but after I was born again in 1982, I began to see that there was much more to learn about life and my place in it.
When I was awakened to new life in Jesus, I began to appreciate that my life was not simply about being the best person I could be or about building a happy life for myself. Quite simply, my life was not my own. It belonged to God, the one who created me and sent his Son to die for my sins so that I might have new life in him. I was to live for him — for his glory.
My church back then taught about God’s love, but it did not teach the Bible well. I got my best Bible teaching in those days from radio preaching and from Elisabeth Elliot. As a young wife and mother, I would try to listen every day. Her program, as I recall, was only 15 minutes a day, but so much was packed into those few minutes.
A Woman Who Knew God
Here was a woman who knew the Lord. Here was a woman willing to serve the Lord no matter where he called her. Here was a woman who suffered the loss of her young husband as a martyr on the mission field, and then stayed for several years to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the same people who killed her beloved Jim. A few years later, she lost a second husband to cancer. Elisabeth Elliot suffered beyond what I could even have imagined as a wife and mother. And her response to it all? Trust in God, obey him, and do the next thing.
“Do the next thing” became a mantra at our house. My husband and I still use it more than twenty years later to encourage each other. Elisabeth would always have a Scriptural basis for her counsel which was straight-forward, no-nonsense, and unsentimental. It was easy for young, exhausted, me-generation mothers of toddlers to fall into self pity, but each day Elisabeth Elliot would graciously, but firmly, pick me back up. She’d remind me that my lot was a calling from God, and that it was nothing that millions of women hadn’t done before me with fewer resources and conveniences.
Obedience and Happiness
She stressed consistency in discipline, and affirmed regularly that even small children are capable of obeying if parents, especially mothers, are firm but loving. I learned that the happiest children are the ones whose mothers and fathers have the courage and strength to lovingly discipline well. And I learned the importance of obedience, not simply for my children, but for myself.
Before I became a mother, as I got to college in the seventies, the social climate had turned upside down and it seemed everyone rebelled against obeying anything but your own “inner voice.” To my and millions of others’ eternal benefit, Elisabeth Elliot boldly confronted that lie. A life of obedience to a God who created, saved, and loved me would never harm me. My obedience to him would never make me miss happiness and satisfaction. To the contrary, obedience was the surest, fastest path to my greatest joy.
A Call to Older Women
The Bible stresses the importance of older women speaking into the lives of younger women:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3–5)
I am grateful Elisabeth Elliot devoted her life to doing this for women in my generation. In just minutes a day, she helped me love my husband better. She helped me raise happy and obedient children who love the Lord. She helped me see that my greatest calling is to live each day, each moment, doing the next thing to the glory of the Lord. That’s a pretty wonderful legacy.
May I and others like me be obedient to God’s call to do the same for the generations of women that follow us.