By: Kate Van Der Hoeven
At Wholehearted, we talk a lot about taking time to quiet our hearts before the Lord, resting in his presence, and leaving thoughts of our crazy schedules behind to make room for the Holy Spirit to speak. Most of us need to hear those words. The world is constantly beckoning for us to find our worth in the amount of work we complete or how many spaces are filled in on our schedules.
But what if some of us are in a stage of life that is uncomfortably slow? Maybe you quit or lost your job. Maybe a recent surgery or prolonged illness has kept you at home and frustratingly still. Or perhaps life is in between stages and you are waiting for the next chapter to begin.
I have been struggling with this in my life recently. I am in a temporary stage where I am jobless for the first time in 3 years and have a distressing amount of time on my hands. As every day passes, I fight guilt because the world around me is busy and I am not. Even though it’s just a stage, for someone who loves a full plate and a rigorous schedule, it’s been hard to let go of where I want to be and allow the Lord fulfill his purposes in me during this time.
One morning, I woke up with a case of the blues. There was nothing on my schedule. Again. I wanted to bang my head against a wall. How was I going to fill up the whole day? I got up anyway, and sat down to have my quiet time with the Lord; 2-3 hours of Bible study, writing, and then complaining in “prayer” about how much I was disliking life.
My reading was in Luke 10. I read over the familiar stories and let my mind wander… Then suddenly Jesus was speaking. The words that he spoke were to a woman named Martha, who was very busy. His words spoke straight to my heart: “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.” My heart was anxious and troubled about many things too, but I was not busy like Martha. What was the “one necessary thing” that Jesus was talking about?
In this passage, Jesus is not rebuking Martha for her work but rather her spirit and attitude towards Mary who had chosen to listen at Jesus’ feet. Martha wanted Jesus to tell Mary to help her get the work done. To be busy, not to listen.
As I sat in my quiet time chair, God revealed what was going on in my discontented heart. I had both Martha and Mary inside my heart. I was sitting at Jesus’ feet but my desire was to work, I was anxious and troubled that I was not, and therefore felt useless. I did not want this time to sit and listen to Jesus. I wanted to be busy with “service for the Lord.” So I was complaining, “Jesus, I do not want to be here at your feet. Give me work to do!”
Bob Goff says “everyone has their head down, and their plate full of activity. It’s not surprising that we often find our identity in the things we accomplish.” Despite saying we want “rest” and “quiet” how many of us struggle to actually rest when we have the time? I often feel guilty when I am given free time. Shouldn’t I be using it for some worthy cause? Doesn’t God appreciate most my service to others?
Despite work being good, and service to others being very important, there is only one thing that is necessary: before any kind of service, we must be receiving the good portion. That good portion, listening to Christ and learning at his feet, cannot be taken away from us. Whether we have lots of things planned or have nothing else but to listen all day at his feet, we must learn to value his presence and resting in it. We must desire Him more than we desire the feeling that we are “doing good.”
When I wake up, I wrestle with the Martha attitude inside me: “Lord, I get my purpose and identity from being busy! I don’t want rest!” I must beg for the attitude of Mary: “Lord, there is always some kind of work to be done, but let me not busy my hands with it until I have sat at your feet and found my satisfaction in You.”
Busy is good. But it is not best. If your schedule seems lacking and you feel guilty, before becoming frustrated or filling it with more activities from church, work, or other forms of service, examine your life: are you choosing the good portion? Are you desiring service more than Christ?
If the days of waiting for things to change seem long, keep listening. Rest at the feet of Jesus. It’s okay to linger. Do not feel guilty. Jesus wants our hearts to be aligned with his. Let him be your chosen portion. Let him be your cup; your beautiful inheritance (see Psalm 16). You will not be disappointed and when the days of work and busyness return, you will be filled with more peace, because you have been reminded that Jesus is enough to cover the busy days and the slow ones.
Kate is kid number 7 of 10 in her family, and her life has never had a dull moment! Growing up in a homeschooling, Christian home in Kentucky, Kate was raised to love God and His Word. She currently works at a local orchard, and fills her time with reading, archery, and piano playing. It is her firm belief that we never stop growing to be more like Jesus as we actively pursue Him.