I stood in my kitchen loading the dishwasher. I put my cell phone on speaker so I could kill two birds with one stone: talk and clean.
The clock helped me make sure I was on schedule. I had about ten minutes left before I needed to get to my to-do list. Recording another podcast episode was at the very top.
These days, life is busy and if I don’t make a list and pace myself, things won’t get done. I try and make sure I use my time in the best way possible because I’ll pay for it later if I don’t. The to-do list of today suddenly becomes the Mount Everest of tomorrow; the impossible feat of errands and chores I should have managed better today.
As I ran around my kitchen, the other person on the phone told me all about how a mutual friend has been super stressed out lately. “Oh, yeah? Why? What’s going on” I asked.
I feel bad when people are stressed out. I know how it feels. To be honest, it sucks!! Whenever my heart beats weird or I get the first signs of an illness, I immediately evaluate my stress levels.
Stress is a killer!! It’s a JOY killer, a FUN killer, a RELATIONSHIP killer, and a BODY killer. The effects of stress are no joke. When we’re stressed, we won’t see that we’re blessed.
“Well, she has so much on her to-do list” my friend explained. “The kids keep her hopping, her job steals all of her time, her chores keep her running. Her house has to be maintained and she has so much to do”, my friend said all of this with a worrisome tone.
Stress in the Every Day?
So, let me get this straight. Our mutual friend has to take care of her kids, go to work, clean her house, and run errands?? Anything else??
My sympathy and compassion started to wane. I measured her to-do list against mine and I didn’t see any differences. Was someone in the hospital? I didn’t know of any vehicles on the fritz. There was no lack of money to buy groceries. Sure, her to-do list was heavy, but stressful?
I didn’t buy it!
I can’t help it. Am I heartless? Think about it. We ALL have normal tasks to do each day. We all have chores, errands, houses to clean, and many of us take care of others (kids, spouses). Should normal, everyday living stress us out?
Stress is a funny thing. In many ways, we add stress to our own lives. We create it. And before you walk away and tell people I’m heartless, hear me out.
I’m going to share 3 tips on how to handle stress in your life today. This is going to be a little different than you’ve heard. There won’t be any fidget spinners or stress balls to spin or squeeze because those things don’t work either.
And my tips … they won’t cost you a thing! These tips won’t change your responsibilities or your environment. But they will shift your focus from stressed to blessed.
What is Stress?
I know it’s probably obvious, but stress has nothing to do with outside factors. The definition is “a mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances” (thanks, Webster).
Stress comes from the mind. It begins with our perspective and how we handle outside factors. The results of stress may be physical, but the root of stress is internal.
How to Handle Stress Mary’s Way
I want to introduce you to Martha and Mary today. You’ll find their story in Luke 10:38-42. The ironic thing about Martha and Mary is that they were sisters and lived in the same environment. That’s not the ironic part. What’s ironic about the two of them is how they responded to the circumstances in their environment. One felt blessed, the other felt stressed.
They lived in the same village, in the same home, had the same friends and the same circumstances … but they saw things differently.
Why? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Why do some people handle stress better than others? Or maybe they don’t handle stress at all … maybe, just maybe it comes down to choosing not to be stressed.
Learn to say NO … to the right things!
Mary and Martha both said no in their situations. But, Martha said no to the wrong thing while Mary said no to the right things.
Mary was found sitting at Jesus’ feet, while Martha was busying herself with the duties of having guests. She went to Jesus and said, “Don’t you care that I’m doing this alone? Tell my sister to help me.”
Mary said no to cooking, cleaning and prepping for guests. She said yes to sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus addressed her choice when He told Martha, “Mary has chosen what is needed and it will not be taken from her.”
Martha said no to sitting at Jesus’ feet but said yes to her to-do list. Her response was worry and distractions. Mary’s response was peace.
Peace Begins With One Thing
I don’t know about you, but there are times I think completing my to-do list will bring me peace. Once I get all the boxes checked off, somehow I will feel better, right?. But I’ve learned from experience that it doesn’t bring peace.
Jesus calls sitting at His feet necessary and the best part of the choices we make. He saw Martha spinning her wheels. He saw her worried and distracted. But He was in the house with her, and she overlooked Him. All the while, He waited for her to sit and find peace.
I know what you’re thinking, “Things need to get done, Shanda. Do you expect me to neglect my to-do list?” No. Not at all. I’m telling you to get to the to-do list after you sit with Jesus. Find peace there or you won’t find peace at all. The to-do list will never get done because there will be another list tomorrow.
Peace begins with sitting at His feet. And the difference between blessed and stressed is the choice to sit and find peace.
What is necessary?
We must not forget that Martha was serving Jesus. She was technically doing good things. She was working for the Lord. A lot of the things on our to-do list are good things. So, aren’t they important? Of course they are! But the question we should ask ourselves is, “Are they necessary?”
I find it kind of funny that Jesus told Martha out of all the things she was doing, there was only one thing that was necessary. Necessary means needed. All that was truly needed was that Martha sit at His feet.
This means her priorities were wrong. Can you believe that? Serving Jesus before sitting at His feet means we have our priorities out of order?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times, YES!!
This brings me to my “Let’s keep it real” question. Are you ready for it?
Is spending time with the Lord a priority? If not, then we won’t do it. We will continue to tackle the to-do list before we sit at His feet. And that means we will respond like Martha instead of Mary. We will choose to be stressed instead of seeing how blessed we are.
Who wants that? Not me.
My challenge to you today is to evaluate your priorities. Is sitting at Jesus’ feet one of them? If you feel more stressed than blessed, then we got problems.
Jesus beckons us to come and sit. He wants to help us manage our to-do list. He sees us spinning our wheels and He is waiting patiently for us to stop and just be. It’s as simple as choosing Him over everything else. He is the better part.
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I hope to see you there!