When the Urgent Takes Control of the Best
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!” Luke 10:40 (NIV)
I struggle daily with choosing how to balance what I need to do versus what I should do. In fact, I find it most difficult to choose between the urgent and best; to choose between what is demanded that day and what I know I should do. One would pray that the urgent tasks and the best tasks would be the same, but often they are not. We cannot ask the question, “What I should do today?” and then search Scripture and discover that God will fill in our daily schedule for us. I would like to think I’m the only one that struggles with this, but I’m afraid this is all too common. What do you do when you feel your life is controlling you? When you feel trapped doing what everyone else thinks you should do and not what your heart longs to do?
Thankfully, we find a situation in Scripture that addresses this matter. Jesus loved Mary and Martha (two sisters who lived in Bethany) and their brother Lazarus. Bethany is a few miles from Jerusalem so their home was a frequent stop for Jesus. Keep in mind that Jesus didn’t travel alone so when He came to visit He had twelve men with Him. Perhaps you can imagine all the things that needed to get done to make Jesus feel loved and welcomed. Martha was the doer in the family while Mary was a little more laid back. As Martha was in the kitchen getting everything ready, Mary was found sitting and enjoying Jesus. Can you imagine Martha’s frustration? I don’t know exactly what Martha was thinking, but based on her words to Jesus, I would venture to say she was not happy! Maybe Martha was thinking, “If Mary would help me I could sit at the feet of Jesus too!” Finally, after one trip too many to the kitchen, Martha blurted out something that she probably wished she could take back. Her words reflected that she had allowed the urgent to take control of the best. She said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40) Oh dear—Martha not only questioned Jesus’ concern for her, she also told Jesus what to do!
I love Jesus’ reply! “Martha, Martha”, (maybe He had to call her name twice to get her to slow down long enough to gain her attention) “why are you worried and upset about so many things?” Please note that Jesus did not say, “Martha, STOP serving me!” Instead He said, “Why are you worried and upset?” He wanted her not to worry about making everything perfect but instead to enjoy Him. His concern was for Martha and not about being served. Do you relate to Martha? Can you imagine Jesus sitting in your kitchen but finding yourself so busy cooking that you fail to speak to Him? That seems crazy! But we often find ourselves so busy that we don’t take time to sit at His feet in prayer.
Several years ago my view of prayer was challenged and caused me to wrestle with what I really believe about prayer. Do I truly believe that I am entering into the presence of God when I pray? If I do truly believe I enter into the presence of God when I pray, would it be difficult to slow down to pray or would it be difficult to actually leave His presence?
Take just a minute to look back on situations where you have gotten frustrated while waiting on God to do something. Have you ever tried to tell Him what to do? When you allow the urgent to take over, you may find your prayer life consumed with telling Jesus to change your situation or to bring you help. And when there is not an immediate response you may find yourself asking, “Jesus, don’t you care?”
Before we become frustrated and begin telling Jesus what to do, maybe we need to slow down and see if Jesus is waiting for us to sit at His feet and talk to Him. Jesus is very clear that being with Him is far more important than serving Him. Perhaps the underlying message of serving Him is this: without taking time to be with Jesus, serving Him will only bring frustration. If you are questioning Jesus and find yourself looking around and being upset that others aren’t helping you, maybe it’s time to slow down, sit at His feet and pray. Prayer is one of the gifts we have been given through the blood of Jesus. Prayer allows us the opportunity to share all of our concerns and frustrations with Him. But more importantly, prayer allows us to enjoy His presence. Slowing down and focusing on Him allows me the margin to discern what is urgent and what is best!
Further Reading Luke 10:38-42
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