Irrational fears, negative self-talk, an overwhelming sense of pressure to perform, an endless flood of what ifs – with much of my life seeming like one big cloud of unknown, these are the things that frequently consume my mind. What city will I be in? Who will I live with? What type of career am I interested in long term? Where am I going to work next year? The list could go on and on. Being the indecisive perfectionist that I am, in recent weeks I have found myself on a downward spiral tearing myself down and believing the lie that because I do not have a plan by now I have failed, and there is no hope.
In order to cope with all of my irrational fears, I often keep busy and do my best to stay distracted. I find myself going from one thing to the next, and if ever I have a moment of down time, I am quick to check social media, call a friend, or simply find more to do. In order to avoid reality, I numb myself to the internal struggle and pursue those worldly things that I believe can bring instant gratification. I busy myself in work, school, friendships, family, etc. trying to control whatever aspects of my life that I can. Looking back, I realize my busyness is a defense mechanism to make up for all the unknowns and the accompanying sense of failure. Since I don’t have a job or a general plan by now, for some reason, I feel the need to work harder and to prove myself in other areas.
Although work in and of itself is not a bad thing, from the passage of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 I realize that this lifestyle is not healthy. In the midst of all the external pressures and commitments, I have lost sight of what is most important. It is not getting a job, having the most friends, serving the most hours in the church, etc. that are going to bring me relief, for as everyone knows, there is always more to do and always more to have. On their own, the things of this world will never be enough, and even more so, on our own we will never be enough. We are weak. We need help. We need something to bring permanent relief. We need to stop our striving and find rest.
Fortunately, as believers, we have this. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” Instead of being a Martha, running all over the place with a never-ending to do list, we are called to be a Mary, to come and sit and listen. God will honor our sacrifice. It may be scary to come and sit at the feet of Jesus, to leave the rest of our work to be finished later and to be alone with our thoughts, but that is just it. We are never alone with our thoughts, and we are not leaving our work for nothing.
On the contrary, we are and will always be with the Creator of the Universe. God is there to help the rest of our work get finished. He is the author and perfecter of our stories, and he, not us, will be the one to bring them to completion. We must learn to come, to dwell, and to know that he is good and he is sovereign. He is the truth, and in his presence, we have the power to overcome the lies and irrational fears that so often fill our minds. We are not meant to fight these battles on our own.
As with Kate Moody who posted last week, I also recently read Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson. In this book, Thompson gives the charge to pay attention to what you’re paying attention to (Thompson 53). He implies that we either chose to be mindful or we chose to be mindless. We must take a step back and realize where our true focus is. By busying myself in my to do lists and running away from my emotion, I have lost sight of what is most important to me. Yes, jobs, family, friends, church, are all important, but it is when these things become our main focus that it becomes an issue.
The things of this world will never take away our pain. Only Christ can. Emotion, weakness, hardship, vulnerability, these are things God has placed in our lives in order that we may draw near to him. For he is greater, and he is stronger. In Psalm 46: 10, we are called to “Be Still and know that he is God.” This is exactly what Mary does in Luke 11. There will always be worldly distractions fighting for our attention, but we must learn to keep our focus. Sometimes in this life, we must take a step back from the craziness and come sit at the feet of our Father. He is always there, and he is calling us to cease our striving, to surrender our control, and to come rest in his presence.
Mary Mitchum is a graduate of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.