How Pain Changed a Martha to a Mary

marthaDo you live a busy Martha-like life? Barbara shares how pain changed her priorities.

‘”Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘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: 41-42)

Hard charging, high strung, competitive, overloaded, and stressed–yes, that was me back in the day. Folks called me “Type A.” Okay, I thought, So what? I figured that was how God made me. Besides, I could always relate to the practical and efficient Martha in the Bible

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!” (Luke 10: 38-40)

Like Martha, I was achievement-addicted and counting on my own strength to “get it done.” Let’s start an art program in the Elementary school, let’s organize a social at church, let’s invite the whole world over for dinner.

I felt so competent and indestructible. Yes, I loved the Lord and was fully committed to serving Him with heart, soul, strength, and mind and He was truly blessing my endeavors –but that great desperate need and longing for Him had not arrived yet.

What did arrive was the first chronic illness and it brought a suitcase full of pain. Shortly after, came the next affliction, followed by number three and four. Those of you who are chronically ill know what I mean–you have similar stories. As the years went by I became less able to start projects because I just couldn’t finish them. I found that I desperately needed the Lord to get through every single day.

My time with the Lord Jesus became sweet and precious. As I slowed down I was better able to sit and linger at His feet and learn from His Word and pray and pray and pray.

Can you imagine Jesus saying that there is only one thing needed and you have chosen it? That was Mary. She was not lazy. She took advantage of an extraordinary opportunity and chose to sit at her Lord’s feet and learn from Him. She embraced the truth of His holy words and “they will not be taken away from her” –or me . . . or you.

I truly thank the Lord for using these painful afflictions to re-make me into a little less of a leader and a little more of a listener, more of a Mary.

Prayer: Dear Lord, You are still molding us. Sometimes that is painful. We ask that You would make us into children who would choose the one thing that is needed. Help us to desire Your Word and to obey it. Amen.

Some of us are leaders and some of us are listeners. Do you think we can be both?

About the author:
Barbara Coleman has been in ministry with her husband, Mike, for over 40 years. Mike pastors a church in Maryland, outside of Washington DC. Barbara’s journey with chronic illness began with fibromyalgia 25 years ago, then her spine began degenerating causing daily cervicogenic headaches. Then a deforming skin disease called lichen sclerosis was added and most recently lymphoma. Barbara used to speak at Women’s Retreat’s and she used to lead Bible Studies and she used to have folks over for dinner but now quieter activities prevail. Barbara enjoys gardening, painting, and now writing for Rest Ministries!

Our illness is a tool that definitely changes our life with frequency and we rarely feel we can predict where it will take us. This song, “Sometimes it Takes a Storm” with Jessica King is a great reminder that there are ways in our life that God uses our storms to draw us closer to Him. Beautiful. -Lisa

6 thoughts on “How Pain Changed a Martha to a Mary

  1. Thank you so much for this much needed devotional. I used to be a type A personality until several chronic illnesses came into my life. I have had a hard time feeling dealing with this new life of not doing, but being, but am learning that God has me right where He wants me.

    Thank you also for this song, as it was a blessing to me!!!

  2. I really enjoyed this-because it described ME…Learning to be a Mary was a wonderful experience-but also EXTREMELY HARD because I received almost zero support from my family. Getting a chronic illness that most Drs don’t believe in was bad enough!-and I was an RN w/20+ years of experience! But getting family members who were used to depending on my ‘Martha-like’ personality, to realize how very sick I was, was even harder-and something I STILL have to deal with. I know they just don’t GET-IT, but I’ve had to retreat from nearly all family & friend relationships to defend myself from abuse. I still suffer from TREMENDOUS hurt by this…apparently I was only worth something to them if I was SERVING them-and I wasn’t to expect anything in return. I’ve laid this in God’s lap-but it’s still SO VERY hard to bear. ANYONE have tips on how to deal w/this besides prayer & counseling? I practice both…& BTW, church was no help either. THANKS~TK

  3. Barbara, thank you for this! I can really relate, I was always a Martha before too! It’s difficult to have such a drastic change, but oh the blessings that can come from sitting at His feet! I think we can just serve in different ways now… and just as we are learning to listen to Jesus we can listen to others, too, and offer them the hope we have found.

  4. Pingback: Absent Love | In the Loft

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