You may find yourself spiraling into an abyss of worry, or you might just be worried about one or two specific things today. Let’s face it: Worry is common — both inside and outside church walls.
Many times, when we are worried about what decision to make or about a loved one’s circumstances, we say a quick prayer and move throughout our day. However, if we find examples of worry in the Bible, we can see that God intervenes. He shows Himself present amidst the anxiety. He is with us in our worry.
You’ll find multiple stories of worry in the Bible, but a few of the most relatable stories are instructions given to a group of seventy-two missionaries, within the larger Sermon on the Mount, and about a woman named Martha.
Missionary instructions where lack of worry is implied.
In Luke 10, Jesus had just sent out 72 missionaries, and His instructions implied that they did not need to worry about what they would eat or where they would sleep.
Alongside other instructions, Jesus told the missionaries to remain in the homes of those who received them. In Luke 10:3-8, we read a portion of Jesus’ instructions:
“Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.” — Luke 10:3-8, ESV
While Jesus was not directly telling the missionaries not to worry here, it’s implied since He doesn’t spend much time explaining how to gather food or find a place to sleep. To Him, it was simple: God would provide accepting homes in which His messengers would find a meal and shelter.
Martha was distracted.
Interestingly, it’s in the same chapter – Luke 10 – that we first learn of Martha.
She was busy preparing her home for him to drop by with friends. Martha’s story comes on the heels of Jesus sharing with a young lawyer the parable of true hospitality and love for one’s neighbor, the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)
In the same fashion as the missionaries, Jesus was traveling with friends through a small village called Bethany. Martha welcomed him, according to Luke 10:38, and her sister Mary was with her.
The Sermon on the Mount.
Before we get to the exchange between Martha and Jesus, let’s look at other places where the actual word “worry” in the Bible appears. While we don’t see the word worry in the Bible much, a similar word, anxious, is in Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus instructs His followers not to worry about what they will wear or eat.
These instructions are in a section of the sermon where Jesus emphasizes the blessings of prioritizing a relationship with Him, and a lifestyle that flows from that love, instead of trying to show how pious we are to impress others or to achieve respectable standing among religious circles.
In Matthew 6:25-34, the word for anxiety is a combination of two Greek words: merizo, which means “to divide,” and nous, which means “the mind.” When a person worries, it’s usually because his or her mind is divided.
This division of the mind is how we meet Martha in her exchange with Jesus. While it appears from the context of Luke 10 that both Martha and her sister, Mary, were invited to listen to Jesus’ teachings, Martha couldn’t concentrate. Jesus told her she was distracted by many things.
Unfortunately, Martha gets a bad reputation from this text because we suppose that Martha should not have been doing anything to get ready for dinner. However, she was using her gifts of hospitality to prepare a meal and to welcome Jesus and the others into her home.
Because women in her society weren’t valued as contributing to the workplace economy, they were expected to serve in the home. While there are a few exceptions to women in the workplace that we read about in the New Testament, Martha was doing what was expected of most women in that era. She was serving in a common way, using her gifts and time.
However, where we see Jesus correcting her is in her distractedness and her inability to put off what could be done later. She was acting as if the dinner prep was urgent when, we can surmise, it wasn’t — at least not in Jesus’ mind. Or it could be that Jesus saw deeper than the current moment, a more continual struggle with prioritizing the eternal. We aren’t told exactly what He meant here.
Even though we can’t determine exactly what Jesus saw or knew in His exchange with Martha, we find a story about worry in the Bible that’s relatable. When we worry, our thoughts swirl, we find it hard to concentrate, it’s difficult to keep our priorities straight, and we lack peace. In short, our minds are divided.
How God intervenes.
When we read about worry in the Bible, we don’t have to look far to find Jesus. He never shied away from addressing anxiety, but He also didn’t shame anyone who struggled with it. In Martha’s case, Jesus didn’t even bring it up until Martha did.
She asked Him why it was fair for Mary to sit and listen to His teachings while she was expected to serve and get everything ready for dinner: “And she went up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” (Luke 10:40, ESV)
How many times have we felt like saying to the Lord, “Do you even care?” It’s important not to miss how Martha is feeling here. She is feeling the weight of what she sees as injustice or unfairness. She feels like Jesus could care less about all the hard work she’s poured into the meal. Ultimately, she is feeling alone and abandoned.
When we feel alone, it’s easy to believe God doesn’t care. We worry about who will do “all the things” or how we can control our circumstances. But what we learn is that Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our concerns.
To Martha’s question, He replied using Martha’s name twice, which is a signal of His gentle tone: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Jesus doesn’t shame Martha by pointing out a laundry list of thoughts swirling through her mind. He didn’t tell her she wasn’t doing enough or serving well.
He simply brought the truth to light. She was anxious, or had a divided mind, and was troubled by many things. The word troubled here means disturbed. Essentially, Jesus kindly showed Martha that her mind was divided and disturbed by a multitude of things that related to the present world.
But, He added, that Mary was focused on the one thing that wouldn’t fade away: “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42, ESV)
How to apply Jesus’ antidote to worry in the Bible.
When Jesus explains to Martha that the object of Mary’s focus would not be taken away from her, He means that the love of Christ — and His salvation and teachings — would not fade. The implication is that the pragmatic elements of our day (our livelihood, our preoccupation with appearances, or how we’re perceived by others) are not nearly as important as our relationship with God.
So how do we respond to worry? We can redirect our focus to Jesus. The truth we read about in the Bible reminds us that nothing is worthy of our attention as much as our relationship with the Lord. He is over all things, and as we get to know Him, our focus on lesser things starts to wane. We start to view what’s practical and tangible as He views it.
Do we need money and food to survive? Of course. Does Jesus care? Of course. But if our focus becomes mismatched and we prioritize how to ensure our livelihood here on earth over Christ, it keeps us from experiencing His peace.
If you are struggling with the state of our world, worry over someone in your life, or any other root of anxiety, it’s not something to be ashamed of or try to hide. In fact, Jesus brought Martha’s struggle with worry to light so that she could see it. Jesus showed her the struggle within her because of His love for her, not because He wanted to make her feel bad about herself.
We can seek help from a trusted Christian counselor who will remind us of the truth. Talking to someone who is trained to help you recognize anxious thought patterns can be a respite from worry. He or she will give you practical tools as well as biblical insight to help you cope.
Stay connected to Scripture.
One of the tools that a Christian counselor may recognize as powerful in your battle with anxiety is the Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has stood the test of time. Its truths have guided Christians of every generation for thousands of years.
Connecting to a Bible reading plan or a book to help you learn Scripture can give you peace during troublesome thoughts. There are even coloring books that provide Scripture throughout to help you relax and focus on God’s Word at the same time.
Whether you keep a journal, follow a reading plan, or color Scripture verses, staying connected to the Bible will help you be aware of thoughts that contradict God’s thoughts.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV, we read, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It’s important for us to remember that God’s thoughts are different from ours. He wants to help us overcome the ones we think that are simply not true.
To find a counselor who can help you on this journey, reach out to one of our offices today.
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