The Exact Next Thing – Galatians 6
So, what are you doing after graduation? This question, often birthed out of innocent intentions, became one of my least favorite conversation starters a few months ago.
I was stepping into my last semester of college and feelings of anticipation were creeping in, primarily centered around one word: next.
It was a season of transition marked by job interviews, final exams, résumés, lots of coffee, goodbyes and hellos. And at times, it felt like a blessing and a curse.
The dreaded What are you doing after graduation? question left me with mixed emotions, making me feel as if I should have the next 10 years of my life mapped out, career moves in place, relationships in check. But then the weight of that reality would sink in: how was I supposed to plan the next decade of my life when I didn’t even have the day after graduation figured out?
Interviews lined up. I was applying for jobs I’d dreamed about, and then those opportunities were actually extended to me in a pretty package, but something wasn’t right.
I distinctly remember having a conversation with my Dad about one of my job opportunities and he looked me square in the eyes, asking one simple question: Have you talked to God about it?
I hadn’t. Not much, anyway. I’d thanked him for the opportunities, but had also taken them as a “sign” that God was blessing me with the job I’d always wanted.
I had to face a heart check. I could have all the opportunities in the world, but if I wasn’t where God wanted me to be, it was all pointless.
So I got on my knees. I grabbed my Bible. And I began asking for advice from trusted mentors who had already been down the graduate-from-college-and-apply-for-a-job road. One response took my breath away: “[God] has never given me much of a blueprint or a five year plan…but He’s always faithful to show me the exact next step.” The. Exact. Next. Step.
That statement and the words in Galatians 6 paved the way for a paradigm shift in my life. I wasn’t marching toward a graduation stage to have life all figured out. I was marching toward a next step…a next step that God would provide.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load…For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:4-5, 8 ESV
Eugene Peterson translates the Galatians passage this way: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life…the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”
These words coincided with advice from a second mentor, who shared this: “Discontent comes by comparison. I realized [in my journey] that I was comparing my situation to others and was becoming discontent. I was neglecting to be grateful for what was right in front of me.”
Peterson’s translation of Galatians 6:16 expresses further: “It’s not what you and I do…it is what God is doing, and He is creating something totally new, a free life!”
Here I was doing, doing, doing. Applying for one more opportunity. Going to one more interview. Making one more update to my portfolio. And while I was responding like a frenzied windstorm, I was having conversations with my friends comparing my progress to theirs. Were they having interviews? Had any of them landed a job yet?
But I had it all wrong. Next steps aren’t about what I can or can’t do. They’re about what God is already doing. No matter what you and I face, there is always something so much deeper and so much stronger: radical grace. I can’t fully explain it and I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but there is one thing I am confident of—I have hope in Christ. Before you and I even walked the streets of this earth, God knew us. He saw us and loved us, dirt on our faces and all.
The amazing part is he didn’t stop there. In the most incredible act of grace I’ve ever experienced, he sent his only son to die for me, to take my rightful place on a cross. This act of hope is what gives me purpose—not my career, who I date or marry, or who my best friends are. No matter what may come my way, my ultimate hope is in Christ. I can proclaim this boldly because this is who my God is. Words like “hope” and “grace” aren’t just pretty adjectives describing him. They’re his very nature, his character. In order to trust him with my next step, I have to lean in to who he says he is, a God of grace and hope.
My wise friend didn’t leave me hanging with his comparison truth. He invited me into the rest of his story: “My perspective began to shift as I felt God telling me, ‘Quit trying to figure out what’s down the road. Be obedient here and now, and I will open the doors.’” It’s not what I do…it’s what God is doing.
So I let go. I kissed pseudo-control goodbye and said, “God, I’m going to explore who you’ve called me to be, and in doing so, you show me what’s next.” You know what’s cool about that prayer? God showed up. He didn’t abandon me. He showed me a next that was even better than anything I could have created on my own.
And here’s the best part of it all: that’s who God is. He’s the God of next. But he’s also the God of yesterday, today, and right now. He goes before me and behind me.
I’m learning that it’s really ok to not know what I’m doing next. I’m just going to hold tight to him, the creator and holder of my next.
Emily is a University of Florida & College of Central Florida alumnus who’s passionate about storytelling, connecting people & making a good cup of coffee. Emily is the Communications Director at Church of Hope in Ocala, Florida, and partners with churches nationally to discover and implement their voice on social media. If you can’t find her tweeting, you can probably find her instagramming…or researching what the latest iPhone app has to offer. Find her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.