I wish personal growth was easier, but it’s prolonged and painful. God pursues me, calling me into a more intimate relationship, but I keep assuming that means I must then do something. I am Martha. Self-help, self-reliance, and self-effort are so deeply engrained that I keep wandering out of intimacy with Christ to serve Him.

It looks like this:

  1. My health collapses slowly and steadily.
  2. My abilities to serve and to expend myself for God’s kingdom are relentlessly, bit by bit, removed.
  3. I find myself increasingly “unproductive,” in spite of everything I’m doing to counteract my illness.
  4. Now that He has my (undistracted) attention, Jesus gives me a greater awareness of His love and of my great worth in His eyes, merely because I am His, no effort on my part required.
  5. Then, in my zeal to return His affection, I think something must be done. I must get busy proclaiming what He has shown me.
  6. I jump back into the hamster wheel and begin to run . . .

What can I do to serve Him, to broaden His fame, to proclaim His glory? How can I get more books published, more blogs written, more Bible studies ready, more outreach done? What can I do? This is what I have always thought this verse meant.

-For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it- (Luke 9-24 ESV)

But, because my method is Martha, rather than Mary, it reeks of my plan, rather than His, for my efforts occur within the context of God stripping away my ability to work, to produce, and to accomplish. No energy. No ability to concentrate. Worsening eyesight. Deteriorating health.

Nothing can touch me, but what God orchestrates for my good. This is good, I therefore remind myself. But, I feel an inner frustration. I can’t do everything I want to do for Him. I feel like a failure, one who is not fulfilling my part in the proclamation of the gospel or the maintenance of the household.

Satan has trapped me in the lie that it is not enough to sit at Jesus’ feet and rest in Him and His plan for my life. The lie that this illness striking me down at this point in our family’s history is bad, wrong, an injustice. Why does He strike down those who try to serve Him?

In my very response of love and adoration for Him, I end up sinning.

“Martha, Martha,” He whispers.

Truth is, it has never been about what I can do, and it wasn’t for Martha either. It wasn’t about her hospitality, and it isn’t about my productivity or what I can accomplish for His kingdom.

It’s about Him. He superintends my chronic illness to make clear that He loves me, even when I can do nothing in return. 

I cannot see this clearly when I can DO something, because I keep running off to serve at each tiny glimpse of His love, mercy, and glorious nature. No, I must be powerless to learn this, for He wants to show me that:

It doesn’t matter how much I accomplish for Him. He loves me.

It doesn’t matter if all the manuscripts get published. He loves me.

It doesn’t matter if I’m productive. He loves me.

It doesn’t matter if I never earn another dime. He loves me.

This awful illness is teaching me to accept the love of God without thinking I must work to deserve it or that my response must be work oriented in return. I never even knew this was a lesson that needed to be learned, yet here I am.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness?” (The Problem of Pain, 96–97)

The entire cage must be torn down. The hamster wheel demolished. Can I allow Him to wreck it? Can I let it go to gain real happiness? Learning to surrender, to allow myself to simply be loved by God, is a challenge.

You can only find that you are deeply loved by God if you take time to live in your belovedness.

Examples of living in our belovedness:

God has Planned Your Glory

The Lie About How to Live the Life You Love