Martha Syndrome

Lately I have been feeling a familiar “syndrome” trying to resurface in my life. I like to refer to it as the “Martha Syndrome.” It is something that I see in my life when I allow my time to be consumed by things other than the one thing that is needful.

Syndrome, as defined by dictionary.com means: a predictable, characteristic pattern of behavior, action, etc., that tends to occur under certain circumstances.

What exactly does this mean?

Are you familiar with the story of Martha and Mary in the Holy Bible? Two sisters that had the pleasure of entertaining Jesus in their home, with a valuable lesson taught through their differences.

Here is the account of their time with Jesus as told in Luke 10:38-42:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But 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!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of serving others around you, but your attitude about it is all wrong? Have you ever found yourself stressed out in what should be the most wonderful family situation and wonder why? Do you find yourself having a pity party while preparing meals for your family or tending to household chores?

This, my friend, is the Martha Syndrome in action.

Anytime I find myself serving my family, but troubled in my heart, I always know where the root of the problem lies. I am simply not spending enough time doing the one needful thing: sitting at the feet of Jesus. Just like in the definition of syndrome above, I find the same predictable patterns in my life that lead me to do things in my own strength, not allowing God to be my strength. And believe me, there is a noticeable difference. And unfortunately it is usually those most precious to me, my immediate family, that feel the effects of my Martha Syndrome.

It is in times like this that I understand I have allowed something to come into my life and distract me from reading my Bible, praying, and worshiping God.

Some of the common culprits in my life include:

  • the Internet
  • reading books (other than the Bible)
  • baking
  • talking with friends

Once I realize that something other than God, is at the center of my day, it is time for reevaluation. I then take a step back from “my plan” and make room, at any cost, to get back to the only place that brings me peace and gives me joy – the Word of God. Once my focus is back on God, I see immediate results. I find myself having joy while serving others. I find myself encouraging others instead of tearing them down. And it is then, and ONLY then, I find the cure to my ailment; thanking God that the Martha Syndrome is no more.

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  1. True story.
    I was asked to be a part of a book study and heard the book was called Having a Mary heart in a Martha world. I thought it to be behaving more like Mary, mother of Jesus, in our world today governed more by a Martha type ie. Martha Stewart.
    No kidding 😉

  2. Thanks, Carlie, for your post. My church is hosting a women’s Sunday School class right now based on Joanne Weaver’s book, “A Mary Heart in a Martha World.” This is EXACTLY what we’ve been learning about. You nailed it!

    1. Liz, that is awesome. I’ve actually NEVER heard of that book, I’ll have to check it out! I first learned of this concept in 1998 while at a conference at my church shortly after I accepted Christ. It is a great truth pulled from God’s Word that helps keep my heart in check 🙂 Bless you!!

      1. I got that title wrong; left out the first word. “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life.” Excellent book! She also has two other books, calling them the something like the “Bethany Trilogy. The second book is “Having a Mary Spirit: Allowing God to Change Us from the Inside Out” and finally “Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God.”

  3. God knows how to speak to me, this post is exactly what God wanted me to hear. I need to get back to letting God do the work through me.
    It is also reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who keeps stumbling along my walk with God.

  4. It’s so important to keep focused on what’s really important in life. Sometimes it can be easy to get distracted.

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