I have always shared a special connection to Saint Martha of Bethany. My own personal journey to overcome anxiety, worry, OCD, and constant movement in both my daily and spiritual life mirror her journey in the Gospel. Providentially, God gave me the honor of being born on her Feast Day. Here’s a few ways this amazing saint helps ease anxiety.
Action, Action, Action
Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I remember always being in motion as a kid. I know that sounds cliché to talk about children moving around, wiggling, and lacking focus. But for me that was and still is true. I still struggle with sitting. I see this trait passed on to my own children as well.
My kids rarely are able to sit down for a complete meal. In fact, they have a tough time sitting still for more than a couple minutes at a time. The action and constant movement of St. Martha appeals to me on a personal level.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”
Another reason the patron saint of homemakers is a perfect person to share my birthday with is her anxiety. Martha complains directly to Jesus about her sister Mary in Luke 10:40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
Martha’s tactless manner upon which she communicated her frustrations about her sister to Jesus negated her hospitality. Jesus calmly replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
How often do I experience similar frustrations when I think I am doing more to prepare for guests than other members of my family? Preparation and hospitality are good in and of themselves. Where the trouble lies in Martha’s situation is she worried about something fleeting [the itinerary of the feast] instead of cleaving to the eternal [sitting at the feet of Christ].
Along with both the personal limitations, Martha struggled with the focus on the minutiae of daily life. Her initial doubt of Jesus’ ability to help Lazarus reminds me of my own frequent self-doubt. According to John 11, Jesus heard about Lazarus’, the brother of Mary and Martha, severe sickness.
I always found these two sentences in this story interesting and bewildering: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was” (John 11: 5-6). Wait. If Jesus really loved his friends, why in the world did he procrastinate the equivalent of a weekend’s worth of time?
To be honest, this passage was a difficulty for me. It is in reading the entirely of the chapter—and reading it in light of the Resurrected Christ—that I realized John is preparing us for a tremendous miracle—the raising of Lazarus.
Trust Follows Doubt
Martha’s reply to Jesus entering the city of Bethany is similar to something I would say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11: 21). I often lament to God saying, “If only you answered my prayers timely would I not be suffering at this moment!”
God’s timing doesn’t always line up with our expectations. We sometimes want Him to fix our problems immediately. Martha’s concerns echo a common human worry: we desire our loved ones to be healed from ailments. Suffering is something even the saints shy away from, at least initially. St. Paul reassures us that even in the face of suffering, doubt, and strife, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). We know that all things work for good for those who love God.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Martha is known as the patron saint of housekeepers, cooks, laundry workers, and servants. While I am not a great cook, I am a clean freak. Even now I am a bit anxious about the oversized basket of unfolded laundry sitting across the room
As a result of my OCD, I tend to do the majority of the household cleaning chores. Knowing Saint Martha encountered similar struggles while still seeking Christ helps gives hope for my situation.
I also helped my mom with her cleaning business as a kid and I worked in the fast-food industry cooking and serving food for almost seven years during high school and college. Little did I know God was using my experiences with menial jobs to forge a relationship with one of the New Testament saints.
Going into writing this post, I had some anxiety about how I would finish it properly. What I have learned is that God will transform the ordinary. In this case, God took my anxiety and work experiences and raised it to a newness of creation.
Oh Saint Martha, we know that you believed that Jesus Christ is the resurrection and life, we ask you to pray for us to your friend, Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that he may raise us from the trap of the spiritual death we are in.
Oh Saint Martha, beg our Lord Jesus Christ to come and remain in our hearts so that we can remain alive in our souls both now and in the life to come after our physical death.