How to Respond to Worries and Concerns
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
I’ve noticed a lot of concerns weighing on me lately. When this happens, I am often reminded of Jesus’ conversation with Martha. It’s a well-known dialogue that occurs when Martha opened her home to Jesus and his disciples. Martha is scurrying about “making preparations” while Jesus is teaching. Martha’s sister Mary is also present, but rather than helping Martha serve she is with Jesus, listening attentively to Him. Martha notices Mary sitting there and interrupts, asking Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her out. Jesus’ words to Martha capture my attention, “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.” (Luke 10:41 ESV)
The truth is, I long to be like Mary – one who can set aside all distractions and sit at the feet of Jesus. But I show up like Martha way more than I'd like to admit.
So, here’s my big question – what did Martha do after Jesus said what He did to her? How did she respond? What was the next action she took?
Well, it might depend on Martha’s Enneagram number… So, just for fun, I made a list of possible reactions:
Enneagram One – Stomps (loudly breathing with exasperation) back to the kitchen muttering, “It’s not fair.”
Enneagram Two – Sits down to listen, but keeps jumping up and down to answer the door, provide drinks, pop another bag of popcorn, etc.
Enneagram Three – Makes a really big deal about sitting down upfront next to Jesus and invites everyone to gather around and pay attention. Might even interject with an occasional, “What Jesus is really saying here is…”
Enneagram Four – Can’t believe Jesus would expect her to sit there with everyone else. Wasn’t Jesus going to be doing a special lesson just for her after all these people leave?
Enneagram Five – Takes a seat in the back of the room, listens attentively, but doesn’t want anyone to notice she is taking notes.
Enneagram Six – Still worried and upset but sits there fake-listening while thinking about contingency plans like… exiting the home in case of a fire, what to do if someone is lowered in through the roof, and how to feed thousands of people.
Enneagram Seven – Plops down in a nice big easy chair, laughs loudly when Jesus says something funny and makes jokes when Jesus’ talk starts getting too touchy-feely.
Enneagram Eight – Enlists the neighbors to come over and take on the preparations and serving. Oversees the entire operation by text message.
Enneagram Nine – Just wants everyone to be happy, including Jesus.
Well, all joking aside, we don’t know what Martha’s response was to Jesus. And perhaps the lack of information given in the Scriptures is a way the Lord invites us into noticing what our own response would be.
Based on how I often manage my worries and concerns, I’d probably have one of two responses if I were in Martha’s position:
When I find myself anxious and concerned, my natural response is to accept Jesus’ invitation to pause and spend time with Him – but I probably wouldn’t be able to stop ruminating over all the things I’m so concerned about. I know it’s the right thing to do to stop and pray, turn my concerns over to the Lord, and focus on Him. So, I go through the motions, but my mind is still on my worries and anxieties.
What I WANT my response to be is to hear His loving voice calling my name and set everything aside to focus my entire attention on Him. I want to be completely attuned to the voice of Jesus in every situation so that I would hear Him gently say to me, “Gail, Gail, you are anxious and troubled about many things. Come sit here with me - for it is the one thing that is necessary right now.” A response of surrender. To surrender my cares, my concerns, my burdens, and my fears – and do the one thing that is needed – to place my focus on Christ.
What would your response have been if you were in Martha’s shoes? What is your natural inclination when you feel burdened by worries and concerns?
I wonder if Martha was able to release her anxious worries about the preparations she was making when Jesus named what was going on - “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” There are times when we are carrying so much weight of the anxieties of life that we cannot think clearly. What if we stop and say to Jesus, “I am having a really hard time with these thoughts, cares, concerns, burdens...” and then invite Jesus to help us name those things?
When you find yourself struggling with the worries and concerns of life (because we all do at times), below is a spiritual practice I invite you to take on.
Begin by placing yourself in the presence of Jesus and invite Him to have a conversation with you.
Hear Him speak your name and say to you, “You are worried and anxious about many things.”
Make a physical list of your concerns and the things you are carrying in your heart and mind. You can write one word, a paragraph, or pages and pages.
Then, like Mary, place yourself at Jesus’ feet. Give Him the list.
Recognize you are doing the one thing that is necessary – to turn your attention to Him, in trust and surrender.
Henri Nouwen notes that in choosing to live a life that is transformed by the power of Christ “we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.”
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Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen
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