Some days life seems to be the sum total of work days plus tiny weekends, hours of chores plus moments of relaxation, to do lists plus flashes of feeling the freedom in throwing one away. Being in a position which is constantly testing your patience and challenging you as not only a professional but as a person can be draining. Sacrificing to help fulfill the ‘mission’, while noble, can sometimes creep into your head and begin to seep out as bitterness, cynicism, and discouragement, especially if you are stretched thin and don’t see any fruits manifesting from your labor.
Many life responsibilities can be frustrating, exhausting, and discouraging. I don’t know about you but I go through cycles – cut out in weeks and months. If my focus is not in the right place, on Monday I am mad and by Friday I have a smile on my face and thankful. This alone reminds me continuously that my feelings about my stressful situation are temporary and that my decisions should NOT be based on feelings but on FACT.
So what are the facts?
The secret to having continuous contentment in our situation is to realize the preparation, work, and to-do lists don’t hold a candle to the importance of our only important focus in this life. The focal point that will guide our days, give joy to our moments, and peace that no circumstance can touch must remain our focus.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philiipians 4:12-13
Every time I get antsy about my situation and start naming to myself all the reasons I should change it, Jesus has a way of keeping me right where I am and affirming my current position.
The Story, My Story
This morning I read this during my quiet time:
“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!” “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
Immediately I started thinking of all the people who need to focus on Jesus instead of complaining to me about all of their responsibilities, their lack of energy, and their endless to-do lists. I thought of the people who I know lack in their relationship with Jesus and would be so much more content if only they knew this truth. But The Holy Spirit–that still, small voice–spoke to me…redirected me:
“Grace, I don’t mean for you to think about how others are Martha but how when your disposition changes, you are Martha. . . how the way you are feeling right now is because you are more focused on your job than on Me. If you would just strive to be like Mary always and especially when frustration and discontentment creep in, you would continue to experience my joy and peace no matter your situation. I hear you. Wait and focus on me.”
I have entertained complaints in life countless times that can lead to escalation and worsening as if throwing more wood on a fire. You give life to a thought when you entertain it! “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” – James 1:15. We control if the thought grows up into sin or dies in it’s tracks.
After seeking him, the Holy Spirit always speaks to me at the exact time or way I need: Words of affirmation, divine intervention, & quiet times directed at my heart. The sweet smile and breath of relief, which follows the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me of this truth, is a feeling like no other this world offers. Addicting in a holy way.
The first thing I realized, and already somewhat knew, was the last two weeks my focus on Jesus had not been as committed because of slacking on my quiet time (I blame the time change!). The second fact I realized was that this is the cycle that always happens and repeats itself when I lose focus.
The Story Examined
Martha was worried and upset about ‘many things’ but Jesus said only ONE thing was important and needed (to focus on Him). She was so busy preparing everything for Jesus that she neglected just focusing on and listening to Him.
Mary chose what was better. She chose to focus on Jesus, which had eternal value. She sat at His feet and listened to what He said. I get a mental picture of her sitting in awe, in joy, in peace while my mental picture of Martha is frantic, bitter, loud, stressed.
Even when Martha saw Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet, it never registered to her that she was focused on the wrong thing. She was too focused on the work that she missed the obvious joy and peace Mary was getting from sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him.
Take Home Message
All we need to do is focus on Jesus and do what he says and the rest will fall into place. He is our source of joy and strength.
“Be still and know that I am God.” –Pslam 46:10
Your FOCUS will determine your perceived workload and your joy. Your FOCUS is what will bring you peace, not the work you are doing. In fact, you can pretty much guarantee any focus outside of focus on Jesus will bring you the opposite — frustration, stress, lack of joy, worry.
If we focus on Jesus and set our eyes on him, as the old hymn says, “The things of this world will grow strangely dim.” When we focus on Him, our work becomes about something higher than ourselves and our trivial complaints become extinct. Refocus on Jesus. Joy & peace will follow. He wants far more joy and abundant blessing for our lives than we could ever imagine.
“And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you,
will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6