I’ve always been the type of person that tries to go the extra mile for others. I want people to know that I care. I’ve never really had too much of an issue with putting others before myself. But of course, I do have my very selfish moments. However, most of the time, I’d rather put my own baggage to the side in order to show other people that I’m invested in them. It may sound like I’m bragging on myself, but I’m actually doing quite the opposite. In each stage of my life, I’ve progressively been more apt to leave myself out of the equation of life. I think about others so much so that I forget about me. I forget about my relationship with God. I forget that in order to be there for others, I need to be there for myself.
Relationships come with sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is offering encouragement and positivity for a loved one who’s struggling even when you’re experiencing the worst day of your life. It could be checking up on others even when they often don’t think of checking on you. Throughout your life, I can assume that most of you will end up making one of these sacrifices or others for your relationships. These sacrifices are amazing. They show character, but they also drain you when you feel like you’re making them every day. I mean let’s be real. It’s exhausting when we’re constantly putting out effort for all BUT ourselves.
This is a struggle I’ve faced in my life on numerous occasions. I get into a low valley where I can’t help but wonder how I’m supposed to do it. How am I supposed to put my everything into other people when I truly don’t feel like I have anything to give? I get worn down and bitter because I feel that I’m the only one who cares. Why don’t they check on me? Why am I always the one who has to remain positive?? I’m broken, but I have to put on the face as if I’m on the mountaintop instead of the valley. If you have felt this way, I hope you know that you are not alone.
There is a woman in the Bible whose story I think of when battling these challenges. This woman is Martha. Martha’s story is often told in a different context, but I want you to consider the lesson that her story can teach us about caring for ourselves.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha and I have a lot in common. I mean A LOT. Just with this little piece of Scripture that we have about her, I can see so much into her character. I can see myself. Usually when I read this story, it’s to remind myself that I need to take a break from my crazy to-do-list and take time for God. But I think there’s more here than what is written. Martha is constantly putting out effort, but not pouring into herself or the most important relationship out there (her relationship with Jesus). If she were pouring into herself, she would’ve been like Mary. Mary took the time to spend with Jesus. Martha was too busy preparing and running around to take that time. If she’s anything like me, she was probably exactly like that within her relationships as well. So wrapped up in others that she forgot about herself. She put aside her relationship with God because all she felt was the guilt. The guilt of feeling frustrated at the people who she poured into that didn’t seem to care for her. The guilt of feeling like she could’ve done more to be there for her relationships. She didn’t even have enough room in her heart or mind to consider herself and her relationship with God. She was too wrapped up in the others around her.
Through my experience as a youth ministry intern and through my experience in life, I find that many people feel this same way. They get so worn down because they can’t find anyone who will pour into them. Many of the people I’ve talked to feel stuck. They feel as if they are not gaining anything spiritually or otherwise in their relationships. This is often when I see people at their worst because they feel alone. They pour and pour and pour into others until they feel that they’re left with nothing. They don’t feel like they have true friendships and relationships, and it hurts.
If I could go back and give advice to these people, it would be to not get stuck. Many people stop in this low place, wondering why know one seems to care about them. But I’d tell each one of them to begin taking a little more time for YOU. Start concentrating on your relationship with God. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbors as YOURSELF. We can’t concentrate on only the “neighbors” part of this commandment. It’s vitally important to our life and relationships that we realize God commands us to love OURSELVES. It’s not selfish to do this. In order to love yourself to the best of your ability, you need to spend time with God. You need to find ways that work best for you to take care of yourself. It could be through taking time every night to put your thoughts down on paper (journaling is the best!!). You could even just let your guard down, and allow yourself to let out all of the emotions you’ve been bottling for so long. God is there to comfort you. God is our Comforter. If you have someone you trust, you could even care for yourself through reaching out to them and asking for help and guidance. There are many different ways we can be there for ourselves. Caring for yourself will even carry over into your relationships!! When your heart is in a good place, it’s easier to care for others to the best of your ability.
You need to be there for yourself. God wants that. Better yet, God commands that. Putting others first is such a great mentality to have, but it can also be toxic if you’re constantly consumed in lives that are not your own. It’s time to start caring for the amazing person that you are so that you truly can be there for others. And while you’re at it, you can seek and pray for relationships that are life-giving to you.
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”