Sand in my toes, water lapping up on my feet, watching the sun either descend below the horizon or arise to announce the break of a brand new day…that’s where I feel most at peace, where my heart stills and I most easily hear my Father’s voice.
And then it’s time to leave. Time to get back to real life. Busy life. Life where one pressure or another tugs in multiple directions until we feel frayed at the edges.
And can I be so bold to even say ministry?
Busy has become lauded almost like a status symbol. The busier we are, the more it’s applauded, recognized, and congratulated.
And rest gets delegated to being a four letter word.
If the enemy can’t keep us from a relationship with the Lord, he will seek to distract us with busyness. In walking, or running, down the track of busyness we lose the peace found in the security of His presence.
For a period of several years, I got into an unhealthy pattern of busy. My husband had been diagnosed with cancer and unable to work. My go-to defense mechanism was much like that of Martha: I jumped in and got busy. I did more, I picked up the slack, and I worked harder. I got to the point that for several years I worked 100 hours a week. I’d work until midnight at the office, run home, take a shower, lie down for what was essentially a nap, get up and be back at the office by 3 or 4 in the morning.
In all my Martha ways, I lost my Mary peace.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
When I get into my Martha-busy, I take on the traits I don’t like to see. When I look back on the familiar passage, several things jump out at me. First of all, Martha was not necessarily involved in activities she shouldn’t have been—she opened her home to Jesus. No one would have ever told her she was taking on too much by doing that. No one faulted Martha for the work that needed to get done. (“Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”) The problem wasn’t that there were tasks that she needed to do, but rather, she let those tasks distract her from the presence of Jesus in her midst (“Martha was distracted…”). How many times in the busyness of my life have I let my responsibilities and obligations rob me of my peace and joy because I took my eyes off Him? Instead,
“I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).
The second problem with Martha’s excessive busyness was that it took her down a path to self-pity (“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?). The more she worked while her sister stayed at Jesus’ feet listening to all He said, the more Martha exchanged her free and joyful yes to serving Him with gladness for self-pity, and worry. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit: freely doing what needed to be done and serving with gladness, but then ultimately complaining and becoming bitter about what I perceived to be an unfair distribution of responsibility. Scripture suggests instead
“Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Philippians 2:14)
and that we should
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
The third problem with Martha’s excessive busyness was that she exchanged her willful service to the Lord for vengeance toward her sister for not sharing in the burden (“Tell her to help me!”) So often, when we are carrying a burden we are not meant to carry, we look to others to help us carry it to help assuage our guilt, shoulder the responsibility, and be the target of our frustration. Instead, Jesus suggests a different way:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
The answer for Martha was offered to her, just as it is to me and you every day. While there are some tasks that must be done each day, the frenzied frantic pace cannot be allowed to rule our day, steal our peace, and destroy our contentment. While I am quickly transported to peace and tranquility every time I am fortunate enough to find myself at the beach, my peace and contentment are not dependent on my surroundings. They are dependent on who I am surrounded by. Jesus told Martha that only one thing was needed, Mary had figured out what that was, and, as a result, it would not be taken from her.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes we don’t get a choice about what we do or what responsibilities get thrust our way. Sometimes life dumps circumstances that create an unwanted level of busy. But we do always have the choice of whether or not to shoulder it alone, or to surrender it to God and ask for His guidance, strength, and wisdom to make it through. We always have the choice of whether to be Mary and go to Him first, or to be Martha and scurry around in a cyclone of activity, worry, and pity.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
What will you do to combat busy?
A book that discusses navigating the journey from a busy life to one of calm is Alli Worthington’s book “Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy.” In a day and age where we are lauded for over-scheduled calendars, and almost prized for lack of margin in the day to day as if that somehow equates with status, and social media likes, comments, and shares seems to somehow measure our worth, we seem to have forgotten that in Scripture, we never find Jesus rushing anywhere, checking the time, or measuring the size of his platform.
In Breaking Busy, Alli Worthington takes the reader on a pursuit to move from “crazy busy to confident calm” in the endeavor to find one’s God-given purpose. She explores the necessity of saying no to lesser important things in order to make more margin for the things we really desire to say yes to, as well as the importance of stopping chasing the things that leave us empty in favor of doing those things we were really created to do which fuel our soul.
Worthington looks at several areas that often breed a world of busy (including relationships, striving, options, worry, expectations, overwhelm, choices, and noise) and discusses that which is preferable to seek after in our pursuit to “break busy.” “Breaking Busy” is a must read for anyone wanting to “find peace and purpose in a world of crazy.” (I have been compensated by Zondervan for my honest review of Breaking Busy.)
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.