Are You Trying to Do Too Much?

Are You Trying to Do Too Much?

Jugglers make it look so easy. They start with three balls in the air, and we think, yeah, I could do that as our hands start making juggling motions.

Then they smile and start the creep upwards: four balls, five balls, seven, eight, nine balls… laughing, joking… it’s SO EASY! First it’s tennis balls, eventually it’s bowling balls, machete swords and flaming batons! We’re mesmerized, because we all know one wrong move and these experts are going to be in serious trouble. By the end, we are praying for their safety and moving a bit farther away in case it all comes crashing down.

In life, we are often like these performers; we have so many balls in the air. We suffer physically and emotionally from the stress of it, because we are juggling things much more difficult and precious: our marriages, kids, careers, church service and spiritual growth – a list that seems to grow with each passing year. We juggle:

Our relationship with our spouse – Date night, communication, child rearing, intimacy, working through arguments.

The needs of our children – Ball games, cheerleading practice, doctor’s visits, dentist’s appointments, play dates, taxi service.

The upkeep demands of a household – Dishes, laundry, yard work, groceries, pipe leaks, appliance repairs.

The demands of work – Deadlines, budgets, quarterly and annual goals, co-workers, staff meetings, overtime

Finances – Utility bills, medical bills, monthly subscriptions, popular sneakers, latest fashions, newest Xbox, fastest laptops and smartest iPhones, mortgage payments, car payments, college tuition, retirement planning, vacations

Church attendance and service – Weekend services, small groups, weeknight Bible study, volunteering at outreaches and special events. And of course, our relationship with God!

When we have too many balls in the air, we can become physically drained, anxious, depressed and spiritually dry. We fear it’s just a matter of time before we get crushed by a falling bowling ball, nicked by a wayward machete, or burned to a crisp by a flaming baton. Juggling is not as easy as it looks.

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid these things that place demands on our time, money and energy; it’s just a part of modern life. Our only choice is to get better and learn the best way to handle our responsibilities. Thankfully God has given us the keys in His Word to become experts.

Martha, the “Not So Good” Juggler

As the story in Luke 10:38-42 goes, Jesus and His disciples had decided to stop in for a visit at Mary and Martha’s house. The large group sent Martha into a frenzy trying to get everything prepared for lunch. The impression I get of her is of a first-century Martha Stewart, possibly frantically weaving fresh lavender into placemats woven from yak hair, while baking garlic bread and stuffing a salmon with fresh herbs and cheese, all while her sister Mary sat and listened as Jesus was teaching in the living room.

All of a sudden Martha snapped, and blew up at both Jesus and her sister:

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself! Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40).

What caused her meltdown?

We aren’t told, but I doubt it was the dirty pots building up, disciples requesting drink refills, or her sister abandoning the kitchen to sit at the feet of Jesus.

I don’t think it was any of those things, but rather it was all of those things together! I imagine Martha was juggling all the balls she possibly could, but when she tripped over a backpack and dropped her special fig and date appetizer, she simply came unglued.

Of course I’m joking, but whatever the real reason was, serving lunch to Jesus and the disciples should have been a joyful experience for her. But when she took on too much, it became one more burden to bear, and negatively affected her experience.

Unfortunately, we are often like Martha, trying to do too much, and in the process becoming ineffective in handling the demands of life. How do we know if we are taking on too much? Look at the signs of struggle that Martha demonstrated, and check to see if those same signs appear in our lives, before it all comes crashing down!

1. Do You Blame Others for Your Frustration and Problems?

Lord, the reason why I’m struggling with all this right now is because of Mary. If she would only help me cook and refill drinks, instead of sitting and doing nothing, I wouldn’t be so frantic right now.

It’s Mary’s fault.

Do you find yourself blaming others for the circumstances in your life, the sorry state of your finances, or a marriage headed for the rocks? If you do, there is a good chance that you are struggling with too much.

2. Do You Feel Resentment While Serving Others?

Do you picture a smile on Martha’s face as she is serving the crowd her special appetizers on lavender woven place mats?

Or do you imagine her pursing her lips, slamming drawers, and glaring at her sister as if to say, how come I’m the one stuck serving, while you are having a grand old time with everyone?

Here, Martha has been given the rare opportunity to serve Christ using her best gifts and talents. But oddly, instead of serving with joy, she resents the fact that she has to do it. It’s a clear sign of the physical and mental exhaustion we experience from trying to do too much.

How about you? Do find yourself resenting the fact that God has tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to serve Him by serving with your gifts and talents in His church?

Do you look around and say, why am I stuck doing this week after week while other people just come, sit and enjoy the worship service?

Personally, I’d rather have a church full of “Marthas” than a church full of “Marys.” If all Christians ever wanted to do was sit in church and hear the messages, then how would anything get done? We would have an ineffective Church. We’d have a Church that is set on being hearers of the Word only, and the result would be that the Church would become insignificant, irrelevant and unimpactful in the world in which we live.

Serving Christ is a blessing, but when it becomes a burden that causes us to be resentful, it is strong evidence that we are struggling with doing too much.

3. Are You Experiencing Self-pity?

“Lord don’t you care?” was Martha having a pity party.

Lord, can I get some sympathy here? Will someone please notice what I’m going through? Don’t you all see that I’m drowning here? Can’t you see all these balls I’m trying to keep in the air?!

How about someone looks up from their dinner plate and acknowledges me? How about a compliment? How about a little gratitude?

Pity parties are a classic sign that we are struggling with overload. It’s like a warning light on your car’s dashboard that something needs to change fast.

4. Are You Becoming Angry at God?

Did you notice that even though Martha’s frustration was targeted at Mary, her anger was directed toward Jesus. Look at it again,

"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (Luke 10:40).

Her angry comment contained more than a request for intervention. It was also an accusation.

Jesus, I expected more from You. You have the power to do anything, but You just sit there witnessing it all and do nothing about it.  Well, that makes me angry.

Has anybody ever been there before? I know I have. Years ago, as our ministry was experiencing significant growing pains, I wrote the following in my journal:

“God, I’m overwhelmed and for the first time in my life I’m angry with You. … I know You can change it, You can do a miracle, but it doesn’t seem like You are doing anything about it, and I guess that’s why I’m angry with You. No, I haven’t prayed like I should, and obeyed like I should, but I’m tired! I’ve confessed, I’ve prayed, I’ve stepped out in faith and nothing! When are things going to turn around?”

I was struggling with overload, and needed to learn a better way. There is no shame in that; the shame is in not recognizing it or choosing to act differently.

Notice how Jesus responded to Martha:

"’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’" (Luke 10:42).

Martha…Mary chose better priorities.

What we struggle with is usually a result of how we have chosen in the past, which means we can learn to choose better, too.

Share the Burden

Although Martha’s attitude was wrong and her priorities out of order, she hit on an important key: Martha asked for help.

She looked at all the balls she had in the air and realized, in order to keep them all going, I need some help.

There are some burdens in life that need to be shared. Remember Jethro’s admonition toward Moses:

“Moses' father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone’” (Exodus 18:17-18).

Moses was God’s man, His choice. But Moses still needed Jethro to tell him that in order to be effective with so much responsibility, he must realize that some burdens need to be shared.

We all love to be in control, and often pridefully believe that no one can do as good of a job as we can. We might overestimate our own importance, or even believe that busyness is akin to godliness.

But the reality is this: you can’t juggle all the balls you have in the air all by yourself. So train that assistant, recruit that team, teach that teenager. Loosen your grip on control and realize that you need to share the burden to be effective.

Stop and Reprioritize

Apparently, Martha was not content with just preparing lunch; she was intent on making sure every minute detail was taken care of, even things no one else would notice.

We could celebrate that trait as a good thing, but when it becomes excessive and knocks our relationship with Christ out of priority, it indicates we are doing too much. But what should you stop? It depends.

How would you answer the following: If only I had more time, I would…

What you answer usually represents the things that are most important in your life, and should be given a higher priority.

Surrender Your Time to God

Above all else, we must prioritize spending time with Christ. Which means, like Mary, we must choose Him first and foremost, above all other things.

We need to make our daily devotional time, prayer and praise, our first priority. When we do, God helps us expertly attend to all our other daily responsibilities.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Notice this promise is conditioned on one action on our part – to come to Christ and spend time with Him. As a result, He will lighten our load, and lead us expertly through life. In short, when we surrender our time to Him first, He will help us choose which balls to juggle, which ones to share, and which ones to put down. Eventually, like the circus juggler, we will be able to say, look… it’s SO EASY! 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Peter Cade

Frank SantoraFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit Photo by Michele Roman.