God, My Portion and the Strength of My Heart Forever

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. 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.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, 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.” Luke 10:38-42

When I was in Jr. High School, I had a history teacher who signed our yearbooks with a short poem description of you that rhymed with your name. When my class figured out that she did that, we all hoped our name would stump her. I thought surely my name would. I mean, how many words are there that rhyme with Judi? My rhyme? “Judi, she always does her duty.” Neither She nor I knew how very accurate she was in her description.

I have always been pretty dutiful. Don’t get me wrong, doing your duty, your job, and taking care of responsibilities, is important. You shouldn’t be lazy or slovenly. But what I have come to realize lately about myself is that you can be too dutiful, in fact, sinfully dutiful. Or, as the passage above states, “anxious and troubled about many things.” Everyone needs rest to carry out their duties well. Everyone needs refreshment. And everyone needs to rest in the Lord, or their duty means nothing.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some stressful situations. I won’t go into detail here, but my stress level has been at an all-time high, and I have experienced symptoms of anxiety. It has been an unsettling and eye-opening time for me. 

Unsettling. If you’ve never experienced an anxiety (or what some call a panic) attack, believe me, it is a scary thing to experience. It’s also a very humbling experience. I have never felt so weak, vulnerable, and exposed in all of my life.

Eye-opening. It caught me by surprise and blindsided me. I’m a mother to 8 kids. I’ve been in some stressful situations but never experienced anything like this before. It has been sobering. And the Lord has opened my eyes with insight into myself and His goodness, faithfulness, Fatherliness, and acceptance. He has used it for my good and His glory. But it is miserable, and some parts of me just want to return to the way I was before. But there is a greater pull and reminder that this change the Lord has wrought in me is good. Sanctification is hard. It hurts. But it always produces what the Lord intends. He loves me, and I can trust Him, even in this.

One truth that I have learned is that for me, duty because I’m naturally dutiful, can overtake my life, become an idol, and steal my joy. I’ll call it the Martha way. 

Now before we’re too harsh with Martha, let’s consider the Lord’s relationship with her. Sinful dutifulness was a struggle for her (as indicated by the above passage), but Martha loved Jesus, and Jesus loved Martha (John 11:5). She was a true follower of Him. Consider her actions at Lazarus’ tomb. She ran to meet the Lord. She knew if He’d been there that Lazarus would not have died. She believed in His teaching on resurrection. She loved and trusted Jesus. (John 11:17-27)

Also, consider Jesus’ gentle rebuke of her. He is not comparing her to Mary in all ways, just in this one instance. In this one instance, Mary had chosen “the good portion.” And the Lord Jesus loved them both.

In fact, His gentle rebuke is an act of love. Jesus wants Martha to change her thinking because He loves her!

Martha was hospitable. She welcomed Jesus into her home. But she was distracted by much serving. She wanted to make sure everyone else got fed. That everyone had enough food. And I love the language here, but Mary had chosen “the good portion.” Do you see the food language tied to Jesus’ words here, to His teaching? The Word made flesh was feeding the crowds with His words, the bread of life. His “food” was the “good portion.” Martha’s food failed in comparison.

Martha was “anxious and troubled.” I mean, honestly, I don’t blame her. She had a house full of people. She was hospitable. She wanted to make sure everyone was happy and fed. But she had forgotten what the crowd truly needed. They needed more than physical sustenance. They needed food for their souls—the words of eternal life.

Now, as I think about this story of Martha, Mary, and Jesus and apply it to myself, the Holy Spirit has shown me some things about myself.

Jesus knows me, just as He knows Martha. 

Like Martha, I have often inhibited myself with an overwhelming sense of duty. Mary was liberated from her sense of duty because she saw the value (the better portion) of sitting at Jesus’s feet and listening intently to His words. This, of course, does not mean that Mary never served or took care of duties. It does mean, however, that duty should never overtake worship. If it does, what or who really are you worshiping? And doing your duty with proper motivation can be worship.

Honestly, it hits me that Martha was likely jealous of Mary’s liberty not to be hindered by a sense of duty in this instance. Perhaps she was irritated by Mary’s lack of serving, and maybe she was a bit envious that she wasn’t the one who felt the freedom to sit at Jesus’s feet and leave everything else until later. Maybe, just maybe, Martha was her own biggest hindrance.

I can really identify with this. I see myself in this. And seeing this is not pleasant, but it is good. My Father is good to show it to me. 

Martha wanted her serving to be noticed, to be validated. Didn’t Jesus see her efforts? Aha! Yes, this is the issue, and it is where duty can turn into sin. What is your motivation? Validation or love?

Jesus did see Martha. In fact, He saw her more clearly than she saw herself. His simple, gentle rebuke revealed that to her, probably immediately. We read, “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, 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.’” (John 10:41-42)

And I can hear the Lord’s rebuke in my own heart & mind… “Judi, Judi, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

That one thing, that good portion, is Jesus Himself. 

Judi will continue to do her duty. It’s the way I’m wired up. It’s a good thing. I pray that the duty will flow from a heart of love more frequently than not. That I will rest (in the Lord’s work) before I do my work, my duty. And that the duty will not overshadow the good portion that can never be taken away.

May I (and you) always remember, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

By |July 6th, 2023|Categories: Blog, Featured|

About the Author:

Judi H. Prince is married to pastor David E. Prince, an active member of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, and is a stay-at-home mom of eight children. Her husband, David, is the author of the book In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship.