"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Isn’t it interesting how often when you’re really struggling with something in life, God will point out something to you to that makes you stop and think.
Recently I’ve been having a lot of really bad anxiety and panic attacks and as I sat suffering in my seat during the meeting a week or two ago this passage was read out. It stuck to me like glue. I sat there and read it on repeat in my head because I knew God wanted me to take something from it.
We have all heard this story before where Martha and Mary have Jesus come to their house while he was in town. We know Martha complained because Mary wasn’t helping her in the kitchen and that the Lord told Martha that actually Mary was doing a good thing by sitting and listening to him.
I had heard the story before plenty of times. So isn’t it amazing how at one stage in my life this story has just washed straight over me without too much of a second thought. But now, in the heat of my anxiety it clung to me and I immediately saw a lesson God wanted me to learn.
There was Martha, doing what she really, genuinely thought was best for the Lord. Serving and extending hospitality to him and his disciples. She was a really thoughtful woman. And she didn’t just think nice thoughts for Jesus but she actually acted on these thoughts. She was a doer and took initiative.
But poor old Martha became distracted and distressed because she had so much to do and so much going on in her head. All that worry took over and she found herself an anxious mess.
She went to Jesus with her struggles and this is what he said.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.”
That sentence is what really caught my attention. I have really been feeling that way myself.
I took a look into what the words anxious and troubled meant to get a clearer idea of what he was saying.
Anxious ~ troubled with cares, to care for, to provide for and to look out for.
Troubled ~ turbid, disturbed, disquieted.
So I didn’t actually know the exact meaning of turbid either so I looked that up too. I found it very interesting and very relatable when I think of how an anxious state of mind feels.
Turbid ~ cloudy, opaque and thick liquid with matter suspended in it. Confused and obscure.
During a patch of anxiety I definitely feel like my mind is in a turbid state. It isn’t clear. It’s thick and your thoughts are hard to move through. There are bits and pieces floating about everywhere and you just can’t seem to control where your mind is swirling to. You just feel stuck.
I know these feelings and Martha did too. In fact Jesus says she is anxious about “many things”.
“Many things” actually doesn’t just refer to all the things she was doing right at that time. It means often, commonly, a great deal, plenteous and abundantly.
I don’t believe this anxiety Martha was suffering from was a one off incident.
So what can we do when we are in that state of anxiety? When our minds are cluttered with turbid goo how do we control it?
“One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
What was that one thing Mary had chosen that was so good? She was at the feet of the Lord listening to him.
There I was. Sitting in the meeting. Worrying about whatever popped into my head. In a murky, panicked state. All the while, words of the Lord were being read aloud to me. All I had to do was stop, take a breath, remember to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen to him.
I have one last thing I wanted to mention.
Anxiety can make you feel pretty worthless and alone. I believe that Martha really did struggle with stress and anxiety. So I’m sure she felt all those feelings too.
Over in John 11:5 it says something wonderful. It says, “Now Jesus loved Martha…”. Despite all her worries, despite the fact she didn’t spend that time listening to him. Jesus loved Martha. And I know he loves me too. Anxiety doesn’t make me any less loved.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:35, 38-39