to do list

It was June of 2013, I can almost remember the exact day. Youth Camp was right around the corner and there were a billion things to be done. I was beyond stressed and almost to the point of an emotional breakdown. I remember talking to my mom on the phone and emotionally “throwing-up”, for lack of a better term. All the stress came flooding out of my mouth and I had to fight just to keep back the tears. I told her I was at my favorite coffee shop and that I was going to take a “time-out”. She encouraged me to do so. (I find this ironic in that as a kid, I’m sure I was given many “time-outs” against my approval. Now, I was willingly accepting the encouragement to take one!) I hung up the phone with her and had to muster up everything within me to keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks. “Lord, please help me. I need Your strength. I don’t know how to manage all of this.”, I wearily prayed. I was tucked away in an upstairs corner, coffee in one hand, my Bible in the other. Luckily, there weren’t many other customers around as a few tears escaped, despite my best efforts. I turned to my Bible, distraught and seeking any solution, “Lord, please speak to me.” I found myself reading in Luke 10 and focused in on the last five verses of the chapter. It was the well-known story of Mary and Martha. You know, the story that’s taught at Ladies Conferences  and after hearing it all the ladies purpose to be more like Mary. But this time, as I read the story, I wasn’t relating to Mary at all, it was Martha who had my full attention.

In verse 38, we find out right away that Martha is a gracious host.

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he (Jesus) entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” (Luke 10:38 KJV)

I’m sure she was the modern day Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker, and Julia Childs all in one.

In verse 39, we also get a glimpse of who Mary is.

“And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” (Luke 10:39 KJV)

Right away we see a contrast in each woman’s focus. And right away I knew which one was me. As I read on, I related with the stress Martha was under. I could sense her anxiety. I thought about my own anxiety; maybe there was an answer here.

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”” (Luke 10:40 KJV)

Poor Martha was “cumbered about much serving” or in modern English, she was distracted with caring and attending to the needs of the people in her house. Being the gracious host she was, she had willingly opened up her home; and not just to anybody, to Jesus! Now, she had a lot to do: food preparations, sleeping accommodations, and I’m sure a little tidying up along the way! She was serving. But, in this verse, we see a culmination of Martha’s breakdown. She was probably flustered, her cheeks flushed, and forehead covered in perspiration. Here she was working up a sweat and her sister was just sitting around! Finally she couldn’t take it any longer! She needed help and she was going to do something about it! So she marched into the room where everyone was sitting, came to Jesus and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”

Basically Martha was saying,” Jesus, don’t you care about the fact that I’m serving alone here?!”  I felt the same way in a sense, “Lord, don’t You care about what I’m doing for You? I’m working so hard for Your kingdom and for what? All I feel is stress. Don’t You notice anything I’m doing here? A little help would be nice.”

In verse 41 and 42 Jesus responds to Martha’s outburst:

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha , thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42 KJV)

What did this mean and what was the Lord trying to tell me? Was I making the wrong choice in what I was doing to serve Him? Honestly, my first reaction was that Jesus must have been scolding Martha. It seemed like He was comparing Martha to Mary and saying,

 “Martha, Martha, you need to be more like Mary and make better choices. Mary is doing what is right and you’re not going to spoil it for her!”

 I interpreted that Jesus was favoring Mary and reproving Martha. In turn, I interpreted that Jesus was reproving me. Condemnation soon followed. I wasn’t a “Mary” at all! I was a “Martha” and now the Lord was not pleased with me. In that moment, His sweet spirit put a check in my heart. His Word says in Romans 8:1,

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

 And Proverbs 3:12 says,

“For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

He was not condemning me but rather showing me the way to correct my problem. So, I dug deeper into the scriptures to gain a better understanding. First I saw, endearment, a problem, a solution, and an example. (It honestly reminds me of math in a way. When teaching a new concept, there is usually a problem, a solution, and an example of how to find the solution to the problem.):

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha (often saying someone’s name twice was an endearing gesture), thou art careful and troubled about many things (Jesus pointed out the core issue): But one thing is needful (Jesus gave a solution): and Mary hath chosen that good part (Jesus pointed to Mary only as a example to remind Martha what choosing the good part looked like), which shall not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41, 42 KJV)

Next, in the Strong’s Concordance I found that “careful” means anxious and that “troubled” means disturbed, deficient in clarity, cloudy, and producing obscurity (darkness, concealment, not able to understand).

Looking at the scriptures again with these definitions in mind, the scriptures now read,

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful (anxious) and troubled (disturbed, deficient in clarity, cloudy, producing obscurity) about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:41, 42 KJV)

Now I could see that the real issue for Martha wasn’t that Mary wasn’t helping, it was that Martha was full of anxiety and her thinking was clouded because she was distracted by serving. It seems she lost her main focus and as a result she didn’t have clarity. Jesus was trying to gently correct Martha and bring clarity to her mind, not comparison. He told her that only “one thing is needful (necessary or essential)”. The answer wasn’t getting Mary to pitch in or being more like Mary, it was choosing the good part.

And what was the “good part” or the “one needful thing”?  Our answer is back in verse 39.

“And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” (Luke 10:39 KJV)

The answer is sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His Word.

The Lord wasn’t telling Martha that serving was the problem, He was telling Martha her focus was wrong. Her priorities were out of order. She had forgotten about her first love.

I sat there in the coffee shop and examined my own heart. My priorities had gotten a little out of balance. I was so busy and had so much to do that I neglected what was the most important thing in my life: Jesus! Before I started my day, I may have half-heartedly and haphazardly said a quick prayer and read a few verses if time allowed. But I had lost my deep connection with Him. And now instead of serving being a joy and something that flowed out of my relationship with Him, it was my taskmaster. Busyness and my “to-do” list ran most of my days. And I felt frantic and frustrated, just as Martha must have felt. I was so busy doing the “work of the Lord” that I totally forgot about “Who” I was working for.

I was seeking a solution that day and here it was: I needed to go back to my first love; I needed to spend some time sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His Word. As I thought it all over, I found significance in the fact that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. To me, it was a position of submission, humility, reverence, and worship. I also found significance in the fact that she was listening. She wasn’t saying anything but was still and quiet, ready for Jesus to speak into her life. She was meditating on Him. Wow! When was the last time I sat quietly in God’s presence and let Him speak? When was the last time I stopped complaining and asking and simply listened? When was the last time I felt peace and rest?

That “time-out” in the coffee shop made a lasting impact on my life. As I submitted myself to the gentle correction of the Lord, I discovered that order came back to my life. All the stress, anxiety, and worry I was dealing with slowly melted away as the Lord led me. It didn’t happen overnight, but that day the Lord instilled in me a concept I point back to when I start to feel stress or busyness in my life: If I take time out for God no matter how busy I am, He will help me manage my schedule. As I began to submit my schedule to Him, things would just simply work out. And when I thought things were getting overwhelming, He would simply remove things from my plate. It was amazing! All of a sudden, a practice would be cancelled or someone would call and say they couldn’t meet. I learned to trust God with my schedule. He became my manager. I leaned on Him and trusted Him.

If this is you, I pray that my “coffee shop experience” will help you in overcoming the busyness, stress and anxiety you may be facing in your life! I pray this encourages you, edifies you, and helps you become “more than a conqueror”. In Jesus’ name!

In my next post, I’ll talk about the practical application of this life lesson. But right now there is one more thing I want to share with you. At the end of 2013, I was listening to Christian radio and the host happened to be talking with an author who wrote a book titled, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”. As you can imagine, after my “coffee shop experience”, this grabbed my attention. I asked for it for Christmas and had it in my hands before the year ended. This book echoes what the Lord spoke to me back in June and dives even more into the story of Mary and Martha. If you are struggling with busyness, stress, or anxiety, I highly recommend reading this book! It has been a timely read for me, solidifying this life lesson in my heart and mind.

I pray God blesses you today and you feel His love, rest, and peace!


One thought on “ONE NEEDFUL THING (PART 1)

  1. Pingback: ONE NEEDFUL THING (PART 2) – PRACTICAL APPLICATION | Bread and Butter

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