Hey, my friend. I am excited to be back with you today after several weeks away.
I will share more about that next week, but I’ve just got to say that it was both refreshing and energizing, and I really do encourage you to consider if there is a way you can take a similar step back and just spend that time with the Lord. I know for me, it created more space to hear from Him, and really, just to be together with Him—without any sort of agenda or question. You know? Just drawing near.
So you can join me again next week to hear specifics about how I spent my time, what kind of boundaries I put in place for myself, and what this experience was like in general.
But for today, I do want to share with you a book that has made it to my recommendation pile—and for good reasons. It’s a book all about discernment and decision-making, and it’s called The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman.
Chances are, you have already heard of this book or read it, or you listen to Emily’s podcast with the same title. But if not, let me give you a glimpse into what the book contains and share some of my favorite ideas with you.
The Need to Make Decisions
Okay, so stop with me for a moment and consider how many decisions you make every single day.
What clothes to wear.
What to eat for breakfast. For lunch. For supper.
How to spend your time at work.
What gets cleaned that day at home.
What time to go to the grocery store, how to get there, and which items to buy and which ones to pass on.
Whether to answer that phone call, or that text message, or that email.
And if to answer, what to say in response.
Whether to let the kids work out their argument on their own or whether you need to step in—and if so, how to do so in a good way.
And those are just some of the little, everyday, ordinary sort of decisions we make.
What about the big ones, like where to work, or how to school our children, or who to marry, or what to drive?
It can get overwhelming really fast. And that’s why discernment and having support as you make these kinds of decisions can be so crucial.
April Book Recommendation: The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman
Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing, offers not just questions you can ask in the midst of these decision-making moments, but also personal examples that show you what such questions and ideas can look like.
The big idea behind her book is that you may not always get some big five-year plan from God in answer to the question you are bringing for discernment, but that you can usually determine your next step to take.
This is what she writes: Consider “what it means for us to do the next right thing now. Not the next big thing. Not the next impressive thing. Just the next right thing in front of us. So what is our next right thing? It’s a question that gets my attention, and it’s what I want to explore with you.”
So, this makes me think about me and my work at Love Does That. You know, I don’t know what God has planned for the next year or two. As much as I love to plan and organize things, I try to simply ask each day, “What do You want me to do today?” Sometimes it’s responding to my clients. Sometimes it’s reaching out to someone I haven’t heard from for a while. Sometimes it’s praying about content to share. And I try to trust Him to lead me to the next right thing.
Or it makes me think about homeschooling. Even though I am praying about and planning next year’s lessons, my focus right now is still, what does the end of the year look like? What should we be focusing on? What do my kids need right now? What’s most important for us? And that means that some days, what I planned to happen doesn’t happen. But it is still our next right thing—something we needed in that moment, something that helps us move forward.
Now, I really like that each chapter of this book ends with a prayer and a practice. A prayer—words you can offer to God, asking Him to help you with this whole decision-making thing. And a practice—something you can do to take that next right step. Because sometimes it’s easy to read something in book, but then to put it into practice? That’s a little bit more challenging. So the prayer and the practice at the end of each chapter really help with that.
One Powerful Question: What is Driving This Decision?
There are 24 chapters in this book, each with a specific focus or idea to consider. For example, learning how to ask questions, or being able to know what you want, or finding ways to get alone with Jesus.
The one I want to share with you today is one that really hits home for me, and maybe you, too. And it’s this: “Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?”
Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?
You see, when we make decisions, there are certainly things we are afraid of. We don’t want to make the wrong choice. We don’t want to bring harm to our children. We don’t want to damage our relationships. We’re not sure what others will think about such a choice. We don’t see how God is going to provide.
And so we can easily make decisions out of fear. We say yes because we don’t want to be seen a certain way by other people; we’re afraid of their reactions. Or we say no to something out of fear, because we don’t know what consequences such a decision will bring. We imagine all kinds of scenarios in our heads—usually the worst ones!
As Emily shares in the book, she had a decision to make, and a friend said to her, “There may be a lot of reasons for you to say no… but don’t let fear be one of them.”
Should you go on the missions trip?
Should you step down from your job?
Should you accept the ministry leadership role?
Should you volunteer with this organization?
Should you start the blog or the podcast?
Should you invite your friend to church?
Should you visit so-and-so at the hospital?
For Emily, once she realized that fear was driving much of her decision, she found the courage she needed to say yes instead of no.
I know that when I was considering stepping down from children’s ministries, the impact of that decision stirred up some fear in me. What would others think? What would the kids think? Will they feel like I abandoned them? Where will my family go to church? What about all these friendships we’ve built? And it was really in realizing that if I could trust God to lead me in this decision, I could trust Him to take care of all the consequences of that decision, too—it was that realization that gave me the courage to let the pastor know.
Now, did it make it easy? Not necessarily. I cried. There were still times the questions came back. But I knew it was what God was calling me to do. And there was a peace there instead of the fear. Have you ever experienced that?
So, one more thing: Emily P. Freeman has a guided journal that goes along with her book. It’s broken up into sections, with some questions to answer each week or each month, and some questions to answer each quarter of the year.
And rather than helping you make one specific decision you might be holding before the Lord, it is designed to help you stay aware of what is stirring in your heart and soul, so that if a change needs to happen, you’ll be more likely to notice it and take the next right step. So if that’s something you want to cultivate within your soul, then I really encourage you to take a look at that guided journal, as well as the book.
What Decision Do You Need to Make?
Now, I wonder if there a big decision that you need to make right now, my friend. Is there a question that are you holding before the Lord?
Emily talks in the book about gathering co-listeners—people who can listen to what’s stirring on your heart and help you listen to see what God might be saying. And while I can’t necessarily sit in your living room with a bunch of your trusted friends and family members, I do hope that I can support you in prayer as you seek God’s guidance.
And so please, I hope you won’t hesitate to email me. Tell me what’s going on. Tell me the question you’re holding before God. And I will hold it before Him, too. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, my name is spelled K-A-R-I.
Okay, my friend, that is all for today. Until next time, let’s encourage one another…
- Episode 24: An Example in Spiritual Discernment and Decision Making: Going “All In” With Love Does That
- Episode 48: The Power of Pre-Deciding in Difficult Seasons
- Episode 77: Three Prayers for Discernment: Making Difficult Choices in Difficult Seasons
- Episode 79: Burdens vs. Loads: Discerning When to Help Someone
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.