Anxiety can be defined in a lot of different ways. The best way to understand it is through the lens of Jesus. Worry can do a lot of things to us… it can give us sleepless nights, ulcers in our stomach, or even heart problems. As a medical condition, it can ultimately be a killer when it is taken to ultimate extremes.
Jesus was visiting in the home of two women who were among His most devoted followers. Mary and Martha and Lazarus opened their home often to Jesus and His band of disciples. Sometimes they would come and stay… and other times they would come for an evening meal.
On one such occasion, we read in the Gospel of Luke, they came for a meal. As Jesus sat at the large outer “family” area of the house, Martha slaved away in the kitchen. The Bible tells us, “She was distracted by her many preparations…” (Luke 10: 40) She had guests! Stomachs to fill! A table to set! Counting her sisters, there would be at least fifteen people… probably unexpected guests at that.
Martha was stressed… especially when she looked away from her kneading bowl and saw her sister Mary… sitting with the men at the feet of Jesus as He talked! Martha went from flustered by her task, to a state of rising blood pressure, to an angry outburst driven by stress and overload. She came into the family area, and said to Jesus, “tell Mary to come and help me in the kitchen!”
Never one to lose an opportunity to teach, Jesus calmly said, “Martha, Martha you are worried and anxious about many things.” The word for “worried” and “distracted” are the very same word in Greek: a word that means “you are going to pieces over many things.”
Isn’t that interesting? To worry means “to fall to pieces.” We find ourselves “distracted” over many things… so many things calling for our attention and focus. “But only one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that one thing.”
The key to overcoming anxiety? Learning not to “fall to pieces,” not to allow distractions to pull us in many directions, each calling for our attention. We find the ONE voice, the ONE thing that is most important, and focus there.
Professional golfers usually hire coaches or counselors to work with and sometimes travel with them to help them not be distracted in the moment the “big putt” has to be made… often the money shot. They learn to shut out every other voice… even the one in their head… that distracts and tells them they can’t make it.
One thing. The one thing that deserves our attention, our focus. Jesus said “GIVE YOUR ATTENTION FIRST TO THAT MOST IMPORTANT THING.” And nothing is more important to the Christian than our focus on Jesus… the author of our peace.
- Stop yourself sometime and count… how many things are you “distracted” by in a given moment?
- Practice when alone the discipline of single-mindedness… of focusing on that which is most important. Can you make yourself close out competing voices and images, noises and distractions… for five minutes at a time two or three times a day… and just meditate on Jesus in that time?
- What are the places and circumstances where you “go to pieces” with anxiety? How can you change that environment or circumstance to allow less input and distraction? Can you find Jesus in the midst of a busy kitchen… or in rush hour traffic… or in a classroom?
- How can we become more Mary than Martha? Do you sit daily at the feet of Jesus?