May 08, 2020 2615 Emily Shaw, Australia

5 Ways to stop anxiety

We’re all familiar with the Gospel account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet whilst Martha is burdened by the numerous tasks required to host an important visitor. This is made worse because she feels that Mary is contributing nothing, absolutely nothing, to this essential domestic work.

Like the loyal son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Martha feels maligned, underappreciated and, to a certain extent, betrayed. Why should all of the work fall to her when she has a sister who is equally capable? Why can’t she have a turn to rest and listen to Jesus? It certainly doesn’t seem fair. And then, to top it all off, when she appeals to Jesus, she doesn’t get the answer she’s looking for. He doesn’t ask Mary to come to her aid. Instead, he seems to admonish her.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve always sympathised with Martha. I mean, it’s good to enjoy the company of visitors but the work is not going to do itself.

I’m one of those A-Type personalities- the hardworking perfectionistic overachievers – and I’ve always struggled with this Gospel passage, especially now that I’m a busy wife and mum of six. Who wouldn’t love to spend all day at the feet of Jesus, basking in His presence, listening to His parables first-hand and soaking up His truth and wisdom? But, in reality, there are babies to feed, children to get to school, lunches to pack, clothes to wash, floors to clean and so on…ad infinitum.

However, if we look closely at what Jesus says, we learn that He is not reproaching Martha for her work, or even for choosing to work, but for something altogether different.

Saint Francis de Sales explains: “When our Lord reprimanded Saint Martha, He said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset over many things.” You see, if she had simply tended to their needs, she would not have been troubled. However, her resentment and preoccupation with perfection makes her hurried and agitated. This is why Our Lord reprimanded her.”

If she had simply tended to their needs… How simple that sounds, but when we feel engulfed by the needs of those around us, we may lose focus and forget to perform our duties with care and compassion. Martha was cautioned because she became unreasonable and anxious in her haste to complete this work. She became fixated on the work itself, and who should be engaged in it, rather than who and what it was for.

Mary has chosen the better part, not for merely sitting by the side of Jesus, but for accepting His peace which the world cannot give. Her inner tranquillity enabled her to judge that paying attention to what her guest is saying is a higher priority than hastening to bring him something he does not need at that moment. She knows that the work of service must still be done, but it can – and will – wait. This moment will never come again – a good thing for parents to remember with their children and spouses.

Had Martha performed her acts of service cheerfully and serenely, she could have enjoyed His company, in the midst of completing her tasks. Then, she too could have relaxed by His side, unaffected by the passions of frustration and jealousy.

So, how can we be more like Mary, so that we can seize these opportunities to sit at Jesus’ feet? Here are a few ways in which you can turn your inner-Martha into an inner-Mary:

1. Pray unceasingly

Begin your day the right way, in prayer. And continue to pray throughout day. Offer all your joys, works, and sufferings to Him in your Morning Offering. Attend Mass regularly, daily if you can. Pray the Rosary daily as a family. Recite the Angelus before Grace at lunch. Spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Mary delighted in Jesus’ presence, so we should do the same!

2. Admit your mistakes

Owning up to our mistakes and failures can be daunting, but recognising our own shortcomings and failures through a daily examination of conscience can be both informative and illuminating. We are flawed human beings and we’re going to make mistakes. We should not dwell on these mistakes, but simply acknowledge them, express sorrow for them and make reparation. The Sacrament of Penance is one of the most underappreciated and underutilised pathways to grace. Regular monthly Confessions are an excellent aid to both finding and maintaining our inner peace, by reconciling us with God, our neighbours and ourselve.

3. Avoid haste

This is easier said than done, as I well know, but, as Saint Francis de Sales explains: “Never is a task accomplished with impetuosity and haste done well.” The solution? Try to accept all of your tasks with peace. Complete them in a prioritized order and delegate what you can or must.

4. Ask for help

If you feel burdened by a task, or anxious about life in general, ask for help. There is no harm in asking for a hand, if you need one. You’d want your friends and family to approach you for support should they need it, so make sure you consider yourself in the same manner. Of course, pride may get in the way, but perhaps God has popped this task into your life to help foster the virtue of humility in you.

5. Trust in Him

God is infinite. He is infinitely merciful and generous. He cannot be outdone in generosity. Relinquish the cares and worries of this life, the burdens that weigh you down, the anxieties that prevent you from achieving anything. Let Him help you. Trust in His wisdom and mercy and you shall see that He will give you everything you need to endure the harder times. Jesus exhorts us to be like the innocent children who trust Him implicitly. They don’t worry about things that don’t concern them.

A little detachment is a good thing for all of us, especially our inner-Martha!

Dear Jesus, you are the strength of my life. Restore my soul and break the chains of anxiety and panic that bind me. Amen.


Emily Shaw

Emily Shaw is a former Australasian Catholic Press Association award-winning editor turned blogger for australiancatholicmums.com and is a contributor to Catholic-Link. A wife and mother of seven, she resides on a farm in rural Australia and enjoys the spiritual support of her local catholic community.

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