Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a series on “contenders” found in Scripture. People who wrestled with God in some way. Hannah wrestled through grief. Habakkuk wrestled and asked God, “Why?” This will be the last post in the series, but it will not be the last post about contenders. For each story in Scripture is about a wrestling of some sort.
Are you wrestling? I am. We wrestle to know God more. We must wrestle to know God more. So let us continue.
Have you ever had dreams fall apart? Have you ever had times when life fell short of your expectations? Have you ever had plans go awry? Yeah, me too.
In Luke 10, we meet a woman named Martha, who also experienced this. The two Scripture passages in which we find Martha are familiar tales to me (and possibly to you as well), and I can definitely relate to this woman.
We first encounter Martha when Jesus comes to her home, which she shared with her brother and sister:
“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!’
For Martha, indeed for all women of that time and culture, hospitality was a big deal. So when Jesus comes to town, Martha opens her home to Him and gets to work making sure everything is perfect.
Jesus had many people follow Him and gather to hear Him speak and be healed. So Martha may have had a large crowd to entertain. Even it was just Jesus and His twelve disciples, that’s still 13 men to feed!
When Martha invited Jesus into her home, I imagine she had some pretty high expectations for herself, for her home, and even for Jesus himself.
She would be the perfect hostess, with a spotless home and a delicious meal. Jesus would see her acts of service and be pleased with her.
Martha put her all into meeting those expectations, and soon, the preparations became a distraction.
Martha’s hospitality was not a bad thing. Serving was probably one of her gifts, and she chose to use it for Jesus. Perhaps she started the day with joy and zeal as she prepared for Jesus visit. But somewhere along the line, her service became a distraction rather than an expression. In the midst of her perfect plan and dreams of pleasing the Lord, Martha finds herself feeling cheated, disappointed and worn.
Have you ever found yourself in the same situation? Expressing love through your talents, passionate about your calling, joy and zeal coursing through your veins and giving energy to your spirit. But then, somewhere along the way, the passion ebbs, the energy is sapped, the dreams fade. And you’re left feeling disappointed, worn out, maybe even like you’ve failed.
This could be the result of taking on too much. Or of beginning to place your identity in what you do, rather than in the One for whom you do it. Or of serving and doing right because you feel you must earn Jesus’ love, or the love of others. Or of a fear of failing.
“Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
These are Martha’s words to Jesus. I picture her saying them in voice that conveys exhaustion. Do You care that I’m worn out? Do You notice me? Do You love me?
When Martha sees her hopes and dreams lying in a messy heap around her, she goes to the only One who can restore. But in her humanness, she casts blame on another, and demands for their change.
Like Martha, we so often don’t want to examine our own behavior and attitude for misalignments. We have the solution, and we tell God what to do. But in wrestling, we must allow Jesus to realign us. To reprioritize our thoughts and feelings and dreams. To weed out that which is not of Him and grow us.
Jesus does teach Martha. He says, “You are worried and upset about many things.” Yes, I do see that you are worn. That things are not as you had hoped. That you are striving to please, but feel you’re falling short. I do care. I do love.
But Jesus’ solution for Martha’s predicament is mush different from her own: “Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Amidst her worries, Jesus tells Martha only one thing is needed.
What is that one thing? Jesus. He is all we need, because in Him, all needs are met. Martha had let worry steal the joy of her serving, causing her to be upset.
I don’t think Jesus was telling Martha she shouldn’t serve or be hospitable. He was telling her she shouldn’t worry. She shouldn’t worry about what others think of her. She shouldn’t worry about falling short. Because Martha had Jesus’ love, and that was all she needed.
Mary had chosen what was better: to be content and secure in Jesus. She sat at His feet even though this would have gone against culture and tradition. She didn’t let the worry of others’ opinions or judgements stop her, because this was her way of coming to know Jesus more.
Jesus wanted the same for Martha. For her to be content and secure in Him, coming to know Him more as she enthusiastically opened her home to Him and welcomed Him into her life.
In Matthew 6, Jesus says not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, rather to seek His kingdom above all, and that as we do so, all needs would be provided for.
Like Jesus said to Martha, He says to us, “You are worried and upset about many things, but You have all you need: My love. And it will never be taken from you.”
Did Martha learn from this? I think so.
In John 11, Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus is mortally sick. They send for Jesus, asking Him to come in hopes He will heal Lazarus. But Jesus waits to go. And waits. And waits. And Lazarus dies.
Once again, Martha finds herself disappointed. Her hopes are dashed. Jesus loved Lazarus; why didn’t He come?
After Lazarus has been placed in the tomb, while the mourning is taking place, Martha gets word that Jesus has finally come. She goes to meet Him and cries, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
After Martha says this, I imagine her stopping short, closing her eyes, taking a deep breath. She remembers her previous conversation with Jesus and what He taught her. This time, she will choose not to worry. She continues, “But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.”
In this conversation, Jesus gives Martha this promise:“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
And Martha chooses to stand on this promise: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
The passage ends with God’s glory being revealed as Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
And Martha’s wrestling with the choice to worry or trust ends in her finding life in Christ and seeing God’s glory.
As we wrestle, we are constantly confronted with the choice to worry or trust; our solution or Jesus’ restoration; our own strength or His love.
We may find ourselves standing amidst a pile disappointed dreams and half-met expectations, but when we choose to live in Jesus, He brings resurrection to the weary soul, the exhausted spirit, the fatigued heart.
And at the end of our wrestling, we we will find ourselves alive, and we will find ourselves loved.
The post The Wrestling: Martha first appeared on The Overflowing
Photography by Anthony Delanoix, found on Unsplash. Edited by Jessica Faith
The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 2011