“You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” —vv.41-42
In an informal survey, twenty women were asked to describe their lives in just one word. Over half of them said, “Busy!” Our age or stage of life doesn’t seem to matter; the common denominator is that we are all rushing around in an effort to get things done.
Maybe it’s because people today have so many activities. And when we multiply those activities by the number of people we are responsible for, life can get pretty complicated. In nearly every culture, women have been the organizers and managers of time within the family. We see from the story of Martha and Mary that even in biblical times, the women were expected to “run the show” within the household.
We modern-day Marthas are “dancing as fast as we can”—more out of necessity than choice. And like Martha, who among us hasn’t looked up to God and pleaded, “Lord, don’t you care that I am doing all the work?” Of course, he cares. However, Jesus definitely would give us the same answer he gave to his beloved friend two thousand years ago.
Jesus is telling us, just as he told Martha, that the “one thing” we need is him. When we put him first in line for our attention, our time, and our energy, the “busyness” of our days becomes more purposeful, less hectic, and more enjoyable.
This is an amazing spiritual paradox: the more time we give to Jesus, the more time we have to give. It’s the same multiplication principle that fed thousands with just two loaves and five fish. In fact, Jesus was probably pleased by the way Martha tried to make everything just right. He probably felt honored by her desire to serve him so graciously. So why did Jesus say what he said? Because he wanted Martha—and all of us—to know that there is a point where our tasks consume us, rob us of our peace, and separate us from God.
We are all guilty of being distracted. We are all guilty of working on the things we consider vital and important—only at the expense of our relationship with Jesus. But before you lose hope and conclude that you can’t manage all the distractions in your life, consider this: Jesus was tempted by one empty promise after another. He knows firsthand how difficult it is to resist temptation. He also knows how much we are tempted every day. Just think: Jesus knew all of this when he spoke to Martha, and still he called her to change. Evidently, Jesus believed that Martha could change. And what’s even more encouraging, we can bet that Jesus was ready to help Martha overcome her distractions—just as he stands ready even today to give us the grace we need to overcome.
So the next time you have two hours and fifteen different tasks to accomplish, take time to put Jesus first. Ask him to help you to slow down, put him first right now, and keep him first throughout your whole day. Thank him for his companionship, which he graciously offers you, even when you’re too busy to notice. Try to stop what you’re doing from time to time, and spend a moment thanking him for his help and presence in your life. You’ll be amazed at the results!
—Selection from Refresh Me, Lord! Meditations to Renew a Woman’s Spirit by Anne Costa, published by The Word Among Us Press.