Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part III

4-9-13 Flat tire

The presence of boredom in my life (Part I) led me to realize that my faith was flat and that the root causes were lack of connection (Part II) and a focus on comparisons. While my faith appeared vibrant and alive on the outside, I did not feel that way on the inside. I had pinhole leaks in my faith.

Think of how a tire goes flat most of the time. Usually, a pinhole leak rather than a huge gash leads to a flat tire. Lack of connection (Part II) and a focus on comparisons created two pinhole leaks that led to my flat faith. Without these leaks, my faith might not just appear vibrant and full but I might actually feel that way on the inside too.

Constant Comparisons

Humor. Clothing. Jewelry. Work. Exercise. Health. Diet.

Prayer. Bible study. Church activity. Worship.

All areas of constant comparison. What’s better? What’s worse? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Then came frustration. Frustration over people not doing what I think they should do and not growing and adapting and changing like I think they should. Complicated lives that, following my plan, could be simpler.

I constantly saw what I thought were Martha types forgetting to be like Mary.

Up until recently, I never viewed myself as a Martha. Actually, I felt out of place in what I viewed as a Martha-dominant culture. But then I realized that my focus on comparisons revealed Martha-like thinking that distracted me from focusing on Jesus.

Martha-Like Thinking4-9-13 Flat Faith

While the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-41) is familiar to me, I only recently read it while trying to understand Martha’s thought process. Doing so helped me identify my own Martha-like thinking that produced…

  • Worry about the task at hand, even with tasks I usually enjoyed.
  • Concern over what others are or are not doing based on what I think they should be doing.
  • Feelings of unfairness based on what others are being allowed to get away with.
  • Stress from worrying about details.
  • Missing out on what’s truly important, namely connection with Jesus and with others.

This Martha-like thinking arose whenever I focused on comparisons. It happened with my kids, my church family, my husband and my extended family. It happened with people I barely knew and even with people I did not know at all. In fact, I often made comparisons based on knowing nothing about a situation and based solely on assumptions. My perception, when focused on comparisons, became extremely distorted.

Not only did my perception of others become distorted, my perception of myself also became distorted. And this distorted perception created a major distraction from my just being with Jesus.

4-9-13 doing over beingBeing Over Doing

In “Fed Up With Flat Faith,” Kathy Howard talks about Martha’s flat faith resulting from her focus on doing over being. Kathy notes how Martha’s “serving distracted her from enjoying Christ’s presence. Martha was too busy to spend time fostering intimacy with Christ.”

Martha’s thought process and her comparison of what she was doing based on what Mary was doing and what she thought Mary should be doing distracted her from just being with Jesus. That’s exactly what happens when my thought processes get Martha-like.

The church in Ephesus suffered from Martha-like thinking too when, as Kathy points out, they got to a point when “their works supplanted their love for Jesus” (Revelation 2:2-5). In other words, they got focused on doing over being.

In my own focus on doing over being, my faith became deflated. I actually remember a time when I could just be and appreciate others where they were. I could sit, reflect and let the Holy Spirit speak to me. That’s also when I experienced tremendous spiritual growth. Odd to think that I grew the most the less I did.

Part IV takes a closer look at the role boredom can play in our lives, and Part V details the Holy Spirit’s plan for fixing the pinholes. I’m excited to share the rest of this journey with you.

DISCUSSION: How does evaluating others get in the way of your vibrant, full faith?

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all direct quotes are taken from “Flat Faith” by Kathy Howard. Also, be sure to heck out Kathy’s guest posts Flat Spots Here and There – Part I and Flat Spots Here and There – Part II.

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

27 thoughts on “Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part III

  1. As a pastor kari, I struggle with comparison. Not comparing to other pastors, but I feel responsible sometimes if people aren't growing like I think they should. Does that make sense? I might put heart and soul into a study or a sermon series and I see blank stares or no progress. I have to realize it is not my responsibility to make them grow. I am to present the message. It is God's to bring the increase. I hope I have explained myself well enough. In answer to your question: it can be discouraging at times (if I let it) when I don't see progress.

    • Yes, it makes sense. I feel something similar when teaching the adult SS class. I imagine that feeling is much more intense from a pastor’s perspective. I often wonder how my pastor deals with the feelings that you describe. Hopefully, there are some whose progress is obvious and that encourages you. Keeping tabs on those feelings and realizing that you are not their Holy Spirit is crucial. Yet, you still feel responsible. Keep bringing the Word and know that God is pleased with that.

    • as a retired pastor I totally understand! It is hard to remember that someone else's growth is NOT our responsibility, whether it is as a pastor, or a mother, or a friend, or a wife. I have all those roles and I have struggled in all of them. I had not thought about life that way, and even in the "afterlife" of a pastor you still sometimes beat yourself up for something that you really had no control over in the first place. thanks for sharing!

  2. Kari,
    I fall into this trap often. I schedule stuff and make myself a doer and I do question when I see others not doing and sometimes not doing nothing at all. I do know that in the being that doing plays a part that our doing should flow from our being. I know that a relationship is what God wants not what I can do.

    • It’s all about the heart. Being with Christ and making Him a priority is essential to authentic doing. I have been studying Romans 7 & 8 a lot recently, and I find comfort in that scripture when I realize that I don’t act how I want and do what I know is right. He still wants to be with me, and He never stops giving His grace when I mess up.

    • I go through spurts where I am quicker to recover than others, but I still sometimes totally miss it for far too long. The more I depend on His Spirit, the quicker I recover & sometimes don’t go there.

  3. It's a weird thing when I notice that I'm getting uptight about what someone else is doing. For me, it goes back to feeling responsible for everything and everyone. I'm not a control freak, so it's odd when it comes up (like it has recently). I notice that it's most likely to happen when someone is going down a path I've taken. I think I should be able to protect them from making the same mistakes I have, but most people want to learn the lessons themselves.

  4. Hello Kari,

    I know personally when I compare myself with someone else it only prevents me from living the life God has called me to live. I often have to refocus my life toward God's purpose and run my own race. Though this can be hard because of the appeal of other people's successes or achievements. Great thoughts!

  5. Kari, I have learned so much through your blogs. Things like taking captive my thoughts, which I still struggle to do, but am getting better at. I have recently realized I never stop. It is hard to just sit and be still. I am always reading, writing, doing, knitting, and even when I sit to do "nothing" I find I can't sit still for long. I had not looked at it until you talked about it. It always seems there is "something" I should be doing and I feel guilty even laying still in the morning and just resting and talking to God. And yes, I am a Martha in so many ways. How many times have I missed the joy of a day with family because I was always the one "doing"? So while I would not say my faith is "flat", this journey with you is shining light into areas I needed to see. Renee Swope also talks about comparision in her Bible study on becomig a woman with a "Confident Heart". I can see myself and the problems it is causing and I am trying to take captive those thoughts and turn them over to God, allowing Him to be my guide and focus. Thanks!

    • Thank you for saying that, Mary. So very humbling to hear. I think that taking thoughts captive is a lifelong struggle for everyone. We are all progressing, hopefully, in that area. My husband struggles with just being. He either is doing something, or he falls asleep. He's learning to find ways to "just be" though, and I'm learning right along with him. While I may not always be visibly doing something, my mind always seems like it's going. For me, that's partly being an introvert and partly having Martha-like thinking and partly our culture. I like how you combined the idea of comparisons and taking thoughts captive. When we take our thoughts captive, we sure to focus less on comparisons. I hadn't thought of it that way. Good additional point to this topic!

  6. Pingback: Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part II | Struggle to Victory

  7. Pingback: Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part I | Struggle to Victory

  8. I think evaluating others – at least if it slips into condemnation – hurts our walk with God because He hates pride. Since I tend to be analytic by nature and since I'm also analytic by trade with the things I write, I have to be careful! I try to catch myself whenever I slip into condemnation and ask God to forgive me. If I don't, I find that it affects my fellowship with Him.

    • Just finished studying what the Bible says about evaluating/judging ourselves and others. Learned a lot. It’s certainly not that we shouldn’t, but we definitely need to know God’s heart about it & reasons for it. The Bible actually has a lot to say about the topic; more than I realized for sure. And it definitely can impact our relationship with Christ in a variety of ways.

      • Yes, when I first started teaching on judgment a woman in one of my classes brought up those verses and I changed my opinion. I learned more from those verses than the do not judge verses! Keep meaning to put the study up on my blog, but haven't done it yet. One of these days!

  9. Pingback: Battling Boredom: My Struggle with a Flat Faith – Part IV | Struggle to Victory

  10. You just hit on a big one for me. My top strength in the "Strengths Finder" profile is competition. In other words, I compare myself to others all the time. And I have to win. It's something I've learned to battle and suppress to a great extent, but still I think I'm more prone than your average person to compare myself to others. I've been wanting to try and find my identity in Christ and Christ alone lately, but it's hard to really do. Easy to say. Easy to believe the importance. Hard to smile when I feel inadequate next to others.

    • Competition can be healthy, and it can drive us to be better as individuals as well as to increase unity. In a comment on another post, you mentioned being a loner and not naturally feeling the need for community. I wonder if your level of competitiveness is related somehow in that there isn't a need for a connection through competition? Maybe not, but I thought I'd throw it out there. But with regard to competition and comparisons, both can certainly be taken to unhealthy levels, and this unfortunately seems to happen more often than not. But, our differences and unique abilities, strengths and talents truly can create unity and make us stronger individually and as a whole. But that's IF, and you mentioned this in your comment above, we find our identity in Christ and no one else. IF that happens, we can look to others for ideas on how to improve ourselves and while individuals become stronger, the whole does as well. Thank you for sharing your example. It made me think about the topic even more deeply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *