only one thing is needed

I know that a lot of you out there are feeling the same as I am right now: school or work filling up every extra second of your life. Your brain never seems to get a rest from thinking about what you’re doing or what has to be done. There’s homework due every day it seems, a literally infinite amount of research you could be working on, places to go, people to see, stuff to study, read, study, hear, study, watch, and study. By the end of each day there’s only enough time for a big sigh of relief that you made it before you fall asleep upon contact with your pillow. Waking up in the morning starts off with another deep breath to launch into the day. And though you may actually be staying on track, getting good grades, and learning a lot, there’s a sense of dissatisfaction because of the time that has flown by with your head stuck in a textbook or in front of the computer. Even when the class is New Testament History, Worldview, or Apologetics, the busy feeling that used to be fun seems slightly overwhelming.

Anyway, that’s how I feel: slightly overwhelmed. That explains why I’m writing this blog post at midnight. Technically, I should probably be: 1) researching for a debate case, 2) studying for my worldview test, 3) doing my still unfinished Algebra 2 and PSAT prep, 4) oh, sleeping, maybe? But I sat down to write because God…made it pretty clear what He wanted me to write about: being busy.

With that though in mind, I googled “verses about being busy,” and clicked the first link. First verse: Luke 10:38-42 – Mary and Martha.

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 only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Right now, I’m feeling like a Martha. I’m preoccupied with what I’m doing and how it can serve God more than just loving and adoring God for who He is, listening for His still small voice. Francis Chan in his book The Forgotten God takes note of the fact that we often don’t hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us for two reasons: comfort and volume. Comfort, meaning that we are so settled and comfortable in our situation that we don’t feel a need to listen for God. Volume, meaning that we are so busy or preoccupied that we can’t hear over the noise of the world in our ears.

Combining that idea with Jesus’ words to Martha, I realized something important. As my worldview teacher, David Knopp, said, “What we are doing is secondary to why we are doing it.” Indeed, there was nothing wrong with Martha cleaning the kitchen. She probably only wanted to show Jesus that she kept an orderly and clean home. But doing the chores became more important than simply listening to Jesus. Sounds slightly familiar. Sounds somewhat like me. Are my studies and my other contributors to a full schedule taking precedence over hearing Jesus? Am I attempting to do everything I can to serve Him without actually asking Him how He wants to use me? If Jesus was sitting in the living room and I was sitting in at the computer thinking about all the things I needed to do, would He say to me, “Shelby, Shelby, you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is needed.”

Only one thing is needed.

“Only one? But there are so many things I need to do!” the world blasts back in my ear. “Spanish, math, chemistry, worldview, debate, soccer the list goes on! How can there only be one thing that is needed?”

Don’t let the volume get turned up. Don’t be busy for the sake of being busy. Don’t make the same mistake that Martha made.

Only one thing is needed. Only Jesus.


  1. Ouch.

    Only because (as you know) I am in the same place you are. Trying to keep on top of the "school wave" seems to leave little time for anything else. But in the end... how much of it will actually matter? Maybe it's time to answer that question and re-order my schedule accordingly...

  2. Good gracious, Shelby, this is great. Wonderful post, quite challenging, and a much needed reminder at this point in my school year as well. Especially being in Bible College, it's even easier to leave out that time with Jesus because I spend so much time in the Bible already. But it's not the same. Thanks for the amazing reminder.

  3. Shelby, this is wonderful. And it's so true. What a wonderful reminder!

    Carrie Cooper

  4. I am in the same boat. Business has a way of creeping up on us, doesn't it? And by the time we realize it's here, it already has us in a headlock. It would be a good idea to consciously prioritize each day. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  5. Thanks. In the middle of this season, I needed this. It's a gift, Shelby.

  6. I probably need this reminder every day of my life. :P Thanks for writing. :)

  7. Oh my goodness Shelby, you are so right. With everything going on it is easy to get distracted, and forget why we are doing all of this. I really needed this as a kick. :) Love you, and thanks for sharing your heart!


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