How do we keep priorities straight when life is so busy?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But 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!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

It was family clean up time. About as fun as it sounds, I turned on some tunes to help brighten the mood. I assigned the kids each a spot, likely bribed them with a treat, and started after the disaster of a kitchen that lay before me. I worked on dishes while trying to keep my kids motivated and the baby from climbing on top of the kitchen table, and then I looked up to see my husband sitting on the couch. Feet kicked up. Reading his Bible.

I was not amused. 

My life was the 2020 mom-version of the passage from Luke 10 with Martha and Mary. Martha was busy with housework, and her sister Mary was sitting with Jesus. Martha approached Jesus and asked him if he cared that she had to do everything alone, and Jesus responded by saying Mary had chosen what is better.

Womp, womp. How nice for Mary, I thought. But without Martha, no one eats. 

How am I supposed to be Mary, God? I prayed. I couldn’t figure it out. How can I sit when life is perpetual chaos, when there is always more to do than I have time for?

I’ve read through this passage a million times, and I always felt the shock and discouragement I imagined Martha must have felt when Jesus responded the way he did. Because I always heard Jesus say, “Martha, you’re wrong; Mary is right. Do what Mary does.” But I think that’s because when I approach God, I’m looking for my tireless efforts to be applauded too. Look how hard I’m working, is this good enough? Do you care? Do you see me? But Jesus isn’t looking for my efforts. And he isn’t looking for me to “be Mary”. When all I focus on is what I should do, I misunderstand his words and miss the point entirely. 

While Martha came to Jesus seeking approval, Mary came to Jesus seeking the kingdom of God. And Jesus offered Martha a break from the temporary to instead pursue the eternal. It was about a heart change more than a behavior change. And he begins by reminding her that he loves her when he repeats her name. He tells her to let go of all the things that she’s worried about to instead focus on him. And when she does, it won’t be taken away from her either. 

So how do we do it? How do we let go of the things that worry us and instead focus on God’s kingdom?

Like Jesus reminded Martha, I think we need to first remember that the Lord’s love for us is not dependent on our performance, whether we are able to spend endless time in his Word or whether we are exhausted trying to survive each day. His love for us is independent of anything we do or don’t do. And his love is complete.

Then, like Martha, we can invite Jesus in. And like Mary, we can listen. 

We have to listen. If time eludes us, we can ask God – for both time and for ears to hear in the chaos. And if time is in our hands, we can ask God – how to spend it and how to give it. 

But there’s no step-by-step process, because walking with the Lord is not a math equation. It’s an art. And it’s learned. And it’s beautiful. But we aren’t the ones with the paintbrush. We’re the canvas. 

Maybe my husband could have been more helpful that wonderful night of family cleaning, but I also could have been more grateful to serve. Because either way, whether we worship the Lord with time in his Word or worship through loving and serving people, we’re choosing the kingdom of God when we do it with him. And his kingdom is one that will last forever, and it will not be taken away from us.

Read: Luke 10:38-41, Luke 12:22-34, John 16:33

Stepping In: In what ways is it hard to spend time with God? In what ways is it easy? Spend time in prayer, and ask God to show you what he wants you to see. Ask him to give you a correct view of himself.

Journeying further: What are things that worry you? How can you instead choose what is better? Spend time in prayer, and ask God to reveal why you are worried and lead you in the identity that he has given you.

Listen: Because music has a way of putting to words what I’m not able to –

Make Room by Community Worship – YouTube

Chris McClarney ~ I’m Listening (Lyrics) Ft. Hollyn – YouTube

Related post: Innocent Distractions – ONE STEP AT A TIME (

2 Replies to “How do we keep priorities straight when life is so busy?”

  1. Jen, I so resonate with everything you’ve said here, love this post. Especially good timing at this time of year. Thanks for sharing.


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