What to Do When You Can’t See a Way Out



There’s a pileated woodpecker pounding at the birdfeeder, and Caleb stands entranced at the window. It’s fully winter now – the thick of it. The color of autumn is a distant memory, and there are long, dark weeks until the first signs of spring.

What do you do when you’re in the thick of it and can see no way out?

Elisabath Elliot, wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, penned a poem titled “Do the Next Thing.” A portion of the poem speaks these words: “Fear not tomorrow, child of the King, trust that 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.”

I think of her words as I watch the woodpecker, as I long for spring and a release from this season. I feel like lying motionlessly on the couch this afternoon, watching old episodes of Gunsmoke on MeTV. I utter a quiet prayer for guidance to carry us through another winter day, and before the words are fully whispered from my parted lips, the buzzer on the dryer in the basement beeps.

I think of folding laundry with reverence, and I’m reminded of Brother Lawrence, the monk known for peeling potatoes with a worshipful heart, fully fixated on God. He knew the secret of living in communion with God through the most mundane tasks.

There are times when it’s hard to see a way out. I’ve walked with others through these times. There have been broken relationships, financial emergencies, health struggles, and the deep grief that comes when a life is taken. I’ve walked with those who could see no way out of their sin, their struggles, and their destructive lifestyles. I know about these struggles because I’ve walked this road as well.

When I can see no way out, I can choose to wallow in the thick of my pit, or I can do the next thing that is set before me. It might be a load of laundry, a stack of dishes, another day at the office, another diaper to change, or answering a phone call from a friend.

We move forward when we continue to put one foot in front of the other and do the next thing.

I roll off the couch, grab Caleb’s little hand, and we head for the laundry room. He’s singing something, and I can’t quite make out the words. We’re half-way through matching the socks when I realize he’s singing only one word – softly, over and over: “Hallelujah,” again and again. We worship together, and thank God for the gift of simply doing the next thing.