Overwhelmed - when the good keeps you from the best

I was feeling overwhelmed. Again.

I looked longingly at my Bible on the coffee table, but knew the clock said I didn’t have time to read it.

I’d been up since 5 a.m. to have a Skype call with ministry partners in Hungary, and had a full day ahead of me, full of mommy tasks, working frantically during naptime, running my daughter to her competitive gymnastics practice, then rushing to make it in time for Wednesday night church. After church we would rush back home to get the kids in bed by 9:30. I might get to give my husband a kiss good night in passing, and then he would head to bed and I would stay up working until 3 a.m. with manufacturers in Asia. In the wee hours of the morning, I’d drop into bed for a couple of hours of sleep, before starting it all over again.

My day was full of really good things – ministry, family, motherhood, activities, church, purpose-filled work – and I loved it all. Truly. There was nothing I wanted to give up. But I was tired. Exhausted actually. And I was grouchy. I was stressed. I was irritable. And honestly, friends, I was running on empty. I was so busy doing work for the LORD, that I had long since had time for being with Him.

Maybe you can relate. In fact, I’m guessing you can.

Life is so busy. So, so busy.

There are activities to be part of, ministry, work, family, friends, and volunteer opportunities. Then there are the daily tasks like making and cleaning up meals, laundry, keeping a house, taking a shower, getting exercise – things that are mundane but necessary – and where do you fit them in? If you have kids in your life, you likely have dance practices, little league games, Friday night football, or volleyball games. You might have library story time, award dinners, and choir concerts. If you attend church there are likely weekend services, mid-week Bible studies, Wednesday night services, special conferences, committees, teams, and needs to fill. If you have friends and family, there are likely umpteen social events you should/want to attend every month. If you have a career, it’s likely that you have your normal work hours, plus covering for others, work emails 24/7 and pressing deadlines. I could go on and on, but I won’t, because we all get it, right? Life is busy.

We have become a culture so set on productivity and busyness, that I think sometimes, we’ve forgotten that it is OK to take time to breathe, to rest. And not only OK, but also oh, so valuable.

Why are we running from morning until night, packing so much into our days that we literally feel like we’re running ourselves into the ground? What are we trying to prove? Does God measure our worth by our productivity? Does He value us by how busy we are?

In Luke 10:38-42 we see the story of Mary and Martha. We’ve all heard it, right? You likely know it well. I’m paraphrasing here, but there are two sisters. One was busy serving and one sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. The first asked Jesus to tell her sister to help her with all the work. Instead, Jesus says Mary – the one sitting at His feet and listening – had chosen the only thing that was needed and it would not be taken from her.

We take ourselves and our work (whatever that work might be) so seriously. We measure ourselves by our productivity, by the contribution we’re making. We measure others by theirs, too. But while we are called to do good works and they should absolutely be the evidence/outflowing of our love for Jesus, they will never be the one thing that He wants most.

So what is? Looking at Luke 10, simply put, it’s us. Our attention. Our willingness to listen. Our proximity to Him.

Serving is good and necessary, but service never equals relationship.

I can do a whole lot of things for my family (and I do), but that’s not what makes me deeply connected and in close relationship with them. A maid, a chef, and a taxi driver could do my work (and honestly, they could probably do it better!). Work doesn’t equal connection.

In a similar way, simply serving God does not equal an authentic, life-giving, personal relationship with Him. Service is an appropriate outflowing of love, but it is not the love itself.

After being convicted that I was seeking to prove my worth, rather than seek His face, I started the painful process of trimming back my life and my schedule to make some space. I cut out activities, closed one of our businesses, and uncommitted from a few ministry opportunities. It was hard. It was painful. But it made space. Space to breathe. Space to think. Space to feel. Space to sit at His feet. Space to pray. Space in the chaos of my thoughts, to hear His words. Space to ask what He was calling me to, and finding the space to do that.

There are so many things vying for our devotion. There are so many things crowding up our days and our thoughts, but only one thing is needed, and if we go after that, it will never be taken from us.

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

“When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD, I shall seek." Psalms 27:8 (NASB)

For more on Mary and Martha, seeking God’s face, and finding the balance between service and relationship, check out my new Bible study, Betrothed, releasing late September 2019. To learn more about the study and get notified when it’s available, sign up here!

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