I was reminded this week about the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, and I pictured myself about halfway between the sisters. I can imagine running to and fro trying to get everything just right, bumping into Martha as we hurry past each other in the kitchen. But I’d also stop for just a few minutes to eavesdrop on Mary and Jesus, soaking in just enough of His presence that I was NEAR to Him but not WITH him. That’s what I’ve done this week. I read the Word, I prayed the prayers, I did the ministry stuff, I was faithful in my work and parenting, but at the end of the day I was still leaning on my own strength. Here’s what Jesus told Martha when she bugged Him about making Mary help (He surely reminded me of the same truth this week) in Luke 10:41-42-
“Martha, Martha, [Heather, Heather] 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.”
Sometimes our best laid plans don’t quite work out the way we envision, and the way we respond says a lot about us. Earlier this week, a project launched that I had poured a ton of time and creativity into; I felt confident and excited to watch it flourish. But factors outside of my control meant the project just didn’t quite land as expected. I quickly flew into a tailspin of proving myself—hurrying around and hustling hard. I jumped into action with fresh ideas and this striving started trickling into my relationships. I was suddenly caught up in fear that I wasn’t “doing” enough and wondered if I had been a good friend/sister/daughter lately. Which led to more hustling.
Midway through the week, a sweet man in my life and I had a little chat. I was feeling anxious and burnt out and stressed, struggling with my sense of self-worth. I told him, “I don’t get it—I spent like an hour reading the Bible and journaling today at lunch, and I’ve been reading the Word and praying a lot lately but I still feel off.” He asked me to tell him more about what I’d read that day… I shared the parallels I’d found in Jeremiah 17 and 1 Corinthians.
“This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And 1 Corinthians 1:27-31-
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I realized I had been leaning on my own strength and not resting. At. All. And when I trust in my own strength, I am parched like that bush in the wastelands y’all. Here’s what STRIVING looks like in my world:
- Relying on my own strength and understanding/plans
- Proving myself through my efforts
- Easily affected by my circumstances
- Trying to live up to the expectations of others (even if they are self-imposed/assumed on my part)
- HARD WORK, which tends towards legalism to earn the Lord’s favor/the good feelings of others
- Exhaustion (parched desert!)
- Judgment (of myself and sometimes others)
- Anxiety/rushed decision making
So what’s the solution? I find it in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
My striving looks a lot like the first part of this verse- laboring, toiling, weary, tired, burdened, heavy laden, worn out, burnt out. Sometimes with even good things! But my hard work and doing things on my own strength do not define who I am. When I allow myself to REST in His strength, HE makes me strong and brings peace. This goes against everything in my perfectionism that says “keep hustling,” but leaning on Him brings peace and refreshment to my soul. So if the opposite of striving is REST, here’s what we get to experience:
- Leaning on His strength. Finding that it is okay to show weakness, because that is where His strength can carry us and show His power.
- His wisdom (not our own way of understanding)
- Deep roots; we are not tossed to and fro because we are planted (Jeremiah 17:5-9; Psalm 23)
- The ability to be more present and connected with others
- Gentleness for ourselves
- Clarity of thought; sanity!
- Childlike joy as we slow down enough to recognize the sweet blessings in our lives
This summer, I will continue to pray for margin in my life (and in yours!). Not just tiny cracks for time spent NEAR the Lord, but an abundance of time to sit at the feet of Jesus. I pray that you also can spend time resting in His strength, and knowing that no matter what your circumstances bring, your soul can be stilled because your identity is found in the one who made you and who rests with you.
If you’re like me and need extra help thinking about why rest could possibly be important, here are some helpful resources I recommend.
- Sabbath rhythm- I’m so thankful for my friend Alexis Girvan who has introduced me to the beauty of intentionally spending time each week in Sabbath… read some of her work here or this awesome book Alexis recommended to me by Wayne Muller that helped me dig deeper into Sabbath
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
- This Spotify playlist I made that is on repeat in my house lately- “summer rest”
- Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 23; Matthew 11:28