What are you going to do next? What are your plans?” The questions came in rapid succession. Everyone seemed to want to know my future. Truth be told, I wanted to know too. I had “itchy feet,” a sense that it was time for something new. My teaching contract would end soon, and I would move to another part of Korea. But I didn’t have a clear picture of what to do next.
Other people had various opinions: Get your Ph.D. Keep teaching. Write more. Have kids. Don’t have kids. Start a business. As I listened to their perspectives, I was tempted to live in the future, impatiently trying to figure out my next steps. I disliked not having a clear, far-reaching vision.
At the same time, I knew that fresh challenges would come when I moved, and I didn’t want to rush past the good things in my current circumstances. I didn’t want to miss what God had for me now because I was too focused on tomorrow. I needed wisdom to balance the present and the future.
Also, I knew that God did not feel the same sense of hurry that I did. The Bible’s wisdom was at the forefront of my mind: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11).1 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Prov. 16:9). “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:34).
Yet I still worried! Was something wrong with me for not having a clearer plan, even if I had some general ideas? Was I being too flexible? lazy? Or maybe God didn’t have anything to say?
One day I stumbled across a quote: “As thou goest step by step I will open up the way before thee.”
It sounded like a Bible verse, but I discovered it was the title of a poem by Arthur C. Ritchie. As I read the poem, written in God’s voice, the lines felt like a balm to my anxious heart:
“One step thou seest—then go forward boldly;
One step is far enough for faith to see;
Take that, and thy next duty shall be told thee,
For step by step, thy Lord is leading thee.”
It was the reminder I needed. It also made me think of Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” A lamp sheds just enough light for a few steps at a time.
As Christian author Richard Strauss comments on this verse: “When an ancient traveller journeyed at night, he carried an oil lamp with him. As he walked along, swinging the lamp out in front of him, he could see the rocks and ruts directly ahead of him in the road, and he could avoid them. . . . That is how God uses His word to guide us. He does not promise a brilliant blaze of light to illuminate the road for miles ahead. He promises a lamp to our feet, enough light for the next step.”2
I didn’t have all the answers for “what next,” but that was OK. It was something I could work out with God, day by day, step by step, as I was faithful in my current situation. If you too are at a decision-making place, may you see how God compassionately guides you. May your way become clear with each choice, as He leads you in right paths for His name’s sake (see Ps. 23:3).
1 Unless otherwise noted, Bible texts are from the New International Version.
2Decisions! Decisions! How God Shows the Way (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1979), quoted in https://bible.org/seriespage/one-step-time.