Last Thanksgiving, I found myself flailing desperately in the ocean off the coast of Mexico. I had been snorkeling with my family in a long-anticipated family vacation. I was now on the rocky sailboat portion of the three-hour trip.
But the unusually choppy waves proved too much for my queasy stomach. I pondered to myself, maybe one Dramamine pill wasn’t enough, and I should have taken two.
Mercifully, the local tour guides steered the sailboat to drop me off on the beach in a nearby cove—except that I still had to swim there. I felt caught between a rock and a hard place, needing to throw up, but also knowing that I would feel better on solid land. It was a nightmare in paradise.
I was already heaving when I jumped in the water to swim to the nearby beach, which bobbed up and down in the distance. Panicked, I cried out to my husband, “I can’t do this!” Normally a good swimmer, I half-doggy-paddled through the choppy waves—and threw up all the way to shore.
I hope no one was recording on their phone.
When the ordeal was over, I was thankful for the dry, firm land beneath my feet, for sweet relief from sea sickness, and to be alive and breathing. I was grateful for my husband who helped drag me through the ocean waves, grateful for my supportive family who arranged for me to get to shore—grateful for the most important things in life.
Drowning in Details
In Luke 10:38-42, we see a woman named Martha who opens her home to Jesus and works on the practical preparations, while her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things” (Luke 10:41 NIV). Martha’s head is filled with the details of hospitality and service, of cooking and cleaning. She was arranging for the meal that she was hosting to go smoothly.
Before this vacation, I, too, had allowed lots of little concerns to pile up in my mind regarding the details of the trip. This was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of family reunion. So, I wanted the traveling schedules to work out, for everyone to enjoy the time together despite differing preferences—for the vacation to go smoothly. You know, the Martha-concerns of life.
It’s not that Martha-concerns aren’t important. They are just not as pressing as we make them out to be. In his classic book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson recommends a way to keep our concerns in check: “Ask yourself the question, “Will this matter a year from now?”
How often we go through our days like Martha, arranging and rearranging the tangible details. And then we wonder why we miss the most meaningful moments in front of us.
There’s nothing like a crisis to make us throw off all the unimportant cares in the world and bring perspective to what really matters. These perspective-changers might come in the form of a sudden accident, untimely illness, or unforeseen life setback. Afterwards, we look back amazed at how our Martha-concerns disappeared during that crisis.
The Deep Rest of God
If you’re like me, you might have wondered at some point what it means to rest in Jesus: What does truly resting look and feel like? How do I know when I have arrived (for those of us who like to check boxes)?
In Psalm 131:1-2, David writes of the deep rest that comes from trusting in God:
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Like David, I knew I had “arrived” at rest that day. It took an unexpected crisis to force me to that point, though.
I saw what really matters in life—and what doesn’t. I saw that time spent together with loved ones (like Mary at Jesus’ feet) is more important than arranging all the behind-the-scenes details (like Martha).
When I got back on land, I felt a deep peace. It was the lightest and freest I had been in a long time. I suppose that one day heaven will be like this. We will rest perfectly in God. Everything else will pale in comparison to Him.
Crisis Brings Perspective Change
Perhaps you, too, have gone through a crisis that clarified what is important to you. Maybe you are going through a crisis right now. It’s easy to forget those life lessons when life returns to normal.
Let’s take some time today to remember and reflect on the lessons that God teaches us in our desperate moments so that we can always benefit from them, no matter what season we are in.
Have you ever gone through a crisis that helped put the most important things into perspective? What did you learn from the experience? How can you apply it to your life today?
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62:1