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Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life

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With nearly a million copies sold, Joanna Weaver's popular book shows women how to blend intimacy with Jesus and service for Him. 

An invitation for every woman who feels she isn't godly enough...isn't loving enough...isn't doing enough. The life of a woman today isn't really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord's feet...but the daily demands of a busy world just won't leave you alone. Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him...yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.

Then comes Jesus, right into the midst of your busy Mary/Martha life-and he extends the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters of Bethany. Tenderly he invites you to choose "the better part"-a joyful life of "living-room" intimacy with him that flows naturally into "kitchen service" for him.

How can you make that choice? With her fresh approach to the familiar Bible story and its creative, practical strategies, Joanna shows how all of us -Marys and Marthas alike- can draw closer to our Lord, deepening our devotion, strengthening our service, and doing both with less stress and greater joy.

This book includes a twelve-week Bible study.

Also look for the ten-week DVD study pack companion product to this book, which includes three DVDs and a separate, revised and expanded study guide.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Joanna Weaver

42 books140 followers
With over 1.6 million books sold, Joanna Weaver is known for her transparent and life-changing books, Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, Lazarus Awakening, At the Feet of Jesus and her new book, Embracing Trust. Her podcast, "The Living Room with Joanna Weaver" was featured in Apple's New & Noteworthy. Joanna is passionate about seeing women experience all that God has for them - especially the joy and freedom that comes from trusting Him.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 609 reviews
Profile Image for Jen.
286 reviews7 followers
August 2, 2011
I feel a little guilty about not liking this book very much. I know so many Christian women who found it quite nice, and I really wanted to love it and feel changed by it in some way...

I don't believe my dislike for "Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World" has to do with lack of faith or lack of a personal relationship with Jesus; rather, it has to do with the book itself. First off, it is basically a self-help style book, complete with space for notes and journaling. As one who subscribes to the notion that the road to self-improvement lies with tying your hiking boots a little tighter and trudging forward to the life you want to lead, I get a little frustrated with note-taking and self-reflection. I don't think it's wrong to reflect, I just think that if you need a change in your life, action is better than that touchy-feely journaling type of thing.

Secondly, Weaver's writing is thin, repetitive and simplistic. I hate to sound like some sort of literary snob, but I kind of prefer my theology with a heavy dose of intellectualism. I'm sure Weaver reaches many women of faith by speaking at a folksy, friendly level, but, perhaps due to my Catholic background and my tendency to read Papal Encyclicals and such, I felt a little disappointed.

It isn't all bad, though. I have to admire Weaver's command of Scripture. Catholics as a group, do not know their way around the Bible, and it is a shame. Weaver's constant referral to chapter and verse was very useful and enlightening. (To Catholics: she does not use the typical American Catholic translation, so you may find it jarring to hear some familiar passages stated differently than you are used to.)

All in all, there is no harm in Weaver's assertion that Christ's message needs to be first and foremost in our lives, but her style and approach didn't suit my needs.

Profile Image for TheReadingKnitter/ Kasey.
839 reviews11 followers
November 10, 2011
An invitation for every woman who feels she isn't godly enough...isn't loving enough...isn't doing enough

The life of a woman today isn't really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord's feet...but the daily demands of a busy world just won't leave you alone. Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him...yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.

Then comes Jesus, right into the midst of your busy Mary/Martha life-and he extends the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters of Bethany. Tenderly he invites you to choose "the better part"-a joyful life of "living-room" intimacy with him that flows naturally into "kitchen service" for him.

How can you make that choice? With her fresh approach to the familiar Bible story and its creative, practical strategies, Joanna shows how all of us-Marys and Marthas alike-can draw closer to our Lord, deepening our devotion, strengthening our service, and doing both with less stress and greater joy.

My Review - I loved this book even if it did take me FOREVER to read it. It made me feel like there was more to my relationship with God then just Him being God. He's my Dad! He wants only the best for me and part of that best for me is an intimate relationship with him. I still feel like I should do more for Him but sometimes it isn't about that. It's about sitting down and just spending time with him. An amazing book by an amazing woman. I can't wait to read the second book, Having a Mary Spirit.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
33 reviews5 followers
November 10, 2007
Any woman who has ever been overwhelmed by the responsibilities in her life needs to read this book. It's a Jesus book, let me just get that out there right now. But it's a Jesus book that's full of insight into why we need to stop doing doing doing (as Martha did) and start stopping and listening as Mary did.

Oh, and the "Martha World" doesn't refer to Martha Stewart -- although the allusion works quite well. It refers to the New Testament story of Jesus going to visit Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus (yes, the dead-not dead guy). Martha goes well, all Martha Stewart in the kitchen preparing dinner for Jesus and his men, trying to make everything perfect, while Mary goes and sits and Jesus' feet and listens to everything he says. Martha gets all upset, whining to Jesus about how her little sister isn't helping. And Jesus tells Martha, "Martha, Martha,you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Deep, eh?

This book really changed my attitude on many things and helped me get through a very challenging time in my life. I recommend it to anyone who feels like a spinning top, bouncing from wall to wall, lacking any center or focus.
Profile Image for Abbie.
107 reviews
February 11, 2021
I had a hard time getting through this book and switched to audiobook half way through just to finish.. I think the theology was off - too much “let go and let God” and added assumptions/meanings to the Bible (over dramatizations). There are some good ideas and applications, but I’m not sure that I would recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Bobbie.
267 reviews12 followers
March 2, 2020
I enjoyed this book and did find it helpful for a time in my life when I have been overwhelmed with responsibilities that I have not previously had. It has given me some guidance in keeping faith and prayer at the forefront of my life while also accepting these new responsibilities with less resentment.
Profile Image for Rosie.
462 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2020
Interestingly enough, I started this book right when the coronavirus hit home. Three members of my family became sick so you can imagine that I developed a Martha personality for the month of June.

This book focuses on the situation many people find themselves in our busy world. There is much to do at home, work, with the family, activities, and so on. With so much constantly going on it can often feel like we are constantly working and losing that special time we have to learn from God's Word. The book discusses the importance of having a time set aside for prayer and God's Word as well as how one can strive for that work-life balance. Weaver also covers how one can enjoy their time of serving, how the worry habit can be handled, and hospitality to name a few. A companion Bible study is included to accompany the book as well as resources to help one further develop their spiritual growth and various areas of service.

I enjoyed how the author developed different aspects of the Mary-Martha story and related them to current struggles that readers face. It really made me realize that other people also struggle with trying to "do it all." I think we all have a bit of Mary and Martha in us and finding that balance between the two can be a challenge. Books like this can help readers take the steps to strive for that balance.
Profile Image for Lisa.
2 reviews
January 3, 2013
This book really hit home with me. I am a Mary type, while my sister is a Martha. It really made me see that both types are important but that you need to be aware of the differences. It tells you both types are a way to serve God. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Profile Image for Susan Barnes.
415 reviews58 followers
November 12, 2019
Joanna Weaver uses the Biblical characters, Mary and Martha, to discuss developing a closer relationship with Jesus. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is well written and relatable with personal stories and a lot of references to other books and material.

For the first few chapters, I found the book insightful, helpful and encouraging. Then for a few chapters, the book became quite legalistic, even reducing our relationship with God to a formula: Prayer + the Word of God + Time = Intimacy with God. If developing a relationship with God was this straightforward and simple, there would be no need for books on the topic! Later the book returns to being more gracious. The change of tone was jarring. Did Joanna feel the need to add a bit of discipline? Perhaps this was aimed at new Christians just getting started with establishing a quiet time, if so, this wasn’t explained.

I also felt that though while Joanna did write about the many obstacles that keep us from intimacy, I felt she didn’t focus on the main obstacle, which is our attitude. How badly do we want intimacy with God? Are we prepared to make sacrifices to achieve it?

Nevertheless, despite these criticisms, Joanna does include a lot of valuable material, which makes it a worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Meadows.
1,822 reviews202 followers
March 27, 2020
This is a very nice inspirational book that I read in small bits over the course of two months along with my Bible reading and devotionals. I wish I had realized that there are some devotional study guide type questions in the back of the book and I would have worked through those along with each chapter. But that's fine. I will spend the next few days and work through the questions as I review each chapter and get even more good from the book.
Profile Image for Dianne Bright.
Author 8 books142 followers
June 30, 2019
At parts, this book was so convicting—I was brought to tears. It takes slowing down to appreciate some of the chapters though—if you’re trying to sprint through this book, it might not be the one for you. When I adjusted my attitude about how much it might influence me personally, I began soaking in the words like water for a dry soul.
Profile Image for Denise.
217 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2008
Lines that I loved from this book:

Have you ever tried to do it all? I have, I do, and I probably always will. It’s not only in my nature; it’s also in my job description – and yours, too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl. And that’s not just for today’s busy women. It has always been the case.

With everything still left to do, there sits little Mary, being quite contrary, crashing a party meant only for men. But worse, she seems oblivious to all of Martha’s gesturing from the hall. Martha tries clearing her throat. She even resorts to her most effective tool: the “evil eye,” famous for stopping grown men in their tracks. But nothing she does has any effect on her baby sister. Mary only has eyes for Jesus.

It isn’t “more” he requires of us. In fact, it may be less.

I find it interesting that when Jesus corrected Martha, he didn’t say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister, Mary?” He knew Martha would never be Mary, and Mary would never be Martha.

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important.

It is impossible to be in the presence of Jesus and not be changed.

Busyness, by itself, breeds distraction.

Martha opened her home to Jesus, but that doesn’t automatically mean she opened her heart. In her eagerness to serve Jesus, she almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus.

Martha is doing all the work while Mary basks in all the glory.

Fair or not fair. Equal or unequal. Just or unjust. We weight it all. And if we’re not careful, our view of the world can become distorted. Every little word can take on a hidden meaning. Each action can turn into a personal attack.

When we look for injustice, we usually find it. And when we expect life to always be fair, we inevitably set ourselves up for a big disappointment.

When Jesus met Martha that day in Bethany, she was “distracted.” That’s where Satan usually begins. He knows if we’re overly worried and bogged down by duties, chances are good our hearts will not hear the Savior’s call to come.

I throw pity parties fairly regularly. Trouble is, no one wants to come. Self-pity is a lonely occupation.

Five Strategies for Fighting Discouragement: Allow for rest stops, Get a new point of view, Have patience, Mingle, Set the timer.

I wonder how the Father feels when we assume the worst about him rather than the best. Does his heart hurt like mine when we question his love?

When you have questions, there is no better place to go than to the One who has the answers.

Worry doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. In fact, it may prevent us from leading the full lives God intends us to live.

A life filled with fear has little room left for faith.

There is nothing too big, nothing too small, that we cannot bring to the heart of our Father.

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.

Will we pray? Or will be worry? We really can’t do both.

Control your imagination. Be realistic about the problems you face. Try to live in the “here and now” notin the “what might be.”

Nothing is harder to bear than a burden we’re not called to carry. While God does ask us to bear one another’s burdens, he has not asked us to step in and do what people are not willing to do themselves. And while there are many needs, God has not asked us to meet every one.

The thought of joining Jesus never occurred to her because it simply wasn’t allowed. But she loved Jesus. I think she knew she was entertaining the Messiah. And so Martha showed her devotion by giving the gift she knew best.

The problem is, contrary to popular belief, we can’t do it all. We’re not even supposed to try.

It was good. Perhaps it was even important. But it wasn’t my plan for you.

If you struggle to stay at his feet, ask the Lord to reveal what is hindering you.

I cannot meet every need, but I can respond in obedience to the need the Spirit lays on my heart. I cannot carry every load, but I can carry the load God has for me.

Hindu mathematicians calculate it takes 6.8 million rotations through reincarnation for the good and evil in us to finally balance out so that we can receive the ultimate spiritual level of nirvana.

Before salvation, Satan tells us we’re just fine. We don’t need a savior. But after we’re saved, the Accuser points his bony finger at us and tells me we’re no good. We don’t deserve a savior.

The trouble with you is this: You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to Me also.

The Hebrew word for Bible is mikra, which means “the calling out of God.”

It’s not striving to know God, but realizing that our Father longs to know us. And it’s free to know God, but realizing that our Father longs to know us. And it’s free for the taking – at least for you and me. But we must never forget – it cost Jesus his very life.

We’ve been filled with great treasure for one purpose: to be spilled.

Don’t look at people, we might protest. Look at Jesus. But while that may be true, the sobering truth remains: Whether we like it or not, we’re the only Jesus some will ever see. Dwight L. Moody put it this way: “ Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian.”

Apple trees bear apples. Plum trees bear plums. If we call ourselves Christians, then our lives should be unmistakably and obviously Christlike.

If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices – Mother Teresa

A need is not necessarily a call – and no one is called to do everything.

They concentrated on changing lives, not changing laws.

One life truly can make a difference. Your life plus my life makes two.

We will all have trials. The question is not when the pressure will come, but where the pressure will lie. Will it come between us and the Lord? Or will it press us ever closer to His breast?

We are as intimate with God as we choose to be. The only limitations of God’s presence in our lives are the limits we ourselves set – the excuses we set up to avoid being filled to the measure with God.

I’m learning how to leave the Kitchen and head for the Living Room where Jesus waits, because that’s where I’ll find everything I need and everything I want.

We are not pawns on some celestial chessboard, expendable and unimportant. We are cherished and highly loved.

God’s ways are not our ways, but his character is still dependable.

If you are struggling to trust God, it may be because you don’t really know God.

Never put a period where God puts a comma. Don’t put a comma where God puts a period.

What you do with yourself between the last time you heard from God and the next time you hear from God is the ongoing challenge of a life of faith.

Martha thought she had value because she was productive. Jesus wanted her to learn she had value simply because she was his.

I pray frequently that I’ll hear His voice more often and more clearly. When I don’t, I know He hasn’t stopped speaking; rather, I have stopped listening.

‘Each one of us acts as an Antichrist’, he said, ‘whenever we hear the gospel and don’t do it.’

The secret to happiness lies not in getting what you want, but in wanting what you have.

Dark minds do dark things.

If we find ourselves becoming critical of other people. We should stop examining them, and start examining ourselves.

The holy is here within us, waiting to pour out of us, and … it’s much more accessible than we ever would have thought. It’s grace with blisters; it’s redemption in overdrive.

God provides the holy, and I provide the sweat. That’s part of what it means to balance work and worship. It’s what we were made for.

The chosen day is not as important as the chosen purpose.

First, the Sabbath needs to be different, set apart; it has to contrast noticeably with the other six days.

The purpose of hospitality is to open your arms to others, not to impress them. It’s better to keep things simple and warm than to go overboard.

Our lives should be a refuge for the hurting, not a country club for the comfortable.

Take my struggles and use them for your glory. But whatever you do, please don’t leave me the same. Change me.

If we want to be like Jesus, we won’t be able to escape the refining process.

We all want a testimony, but we’d rather skip the test that gives us one.

“Give yourself fully to God,” writes Mother Teresa in Life in the Spirit. “He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your own weakness.”
Profile Image for Carol Bledsoe.
92 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2021
This book really spoke to my heart. This is the person I want to be. I started reading my daughter's copy of this book. Less than halfway through I knew I had to have my own copy. There is so much good and precious information. I actually started reading it again from the beginning. I ended up highlighting many passages. My hope is that I'll refer back to this book when I sense the Martha in me trying to take over.
Profile Image for Kendra.
282 reviews
March 27, 2023
I started this a long time ago and finally finished it. I learned a lot and it was an enjoyable devotional, I am still working through the back of the book with more in depth devotions but I have 'read' this book. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to spend more time sitting at Jesus's feet.
Profile Image for Debbie.
816 reviews59 followers
June 5, 2017
This was a wonderful bible study that a group of women just finished at my church. We used the DVD that our leader had also. I am so glad that this was our choice for our spring study.
Profile Image for Christina.
1,155 reviews
June 21, 2010
I really tried to take my time reading this book because I wanted to reflect on the author's observations. Two things I really liked about this book:

1) The author's transparency, in giving examples from her life experiences and also in how hard it was for her personally to write this book. She really struggled with it and you really understand her sense of wanting to be changed by what she is learning and sharing in this book. I too, feel I have so much further to go in my journey and struggle with the fear I will wake up 30 years from now and still be the same.

2) The emphasis on balance. So many times, the application of this family's story is: be more like Mary, less like Martha. But Joanna's emphasis was on balance- how to worship well and serve well, how to not feel guilty when you are spending too much time on one extreme, how to shift back and forth well, and finally, how to let the Lord merge the two areas together into an undivided heart of worship and service. Just as Mary and Martha each grew and transformed as Christ changed their hearts, there is also great hope we can do the same.
Profile Image for Magda.
1,165 reviews30 followers
August 18, 2010
There are things to be gotten out of this book, but it's definitely too Protestant for me to feel comfortable with it entirely. Again, I didn't finish the book.

----one-star below, October 1, 2007
Not really something I would choose to read. Vassi asked whether anyone had read it, so I got it from the library to review for her. I had to return it to the library before I finished the last chapter and a half, as someone else had requested it.

Things I liked: The concrete what-to-do blurbs suggesting ways to handle different problems.

Things I didn't like: the historical-fiction dramatization of the stories in the Gospel of Luke; the necessary identification of Mary of Bethany as the woman who poured the perfume and dried His feet with her hair (which identification is not made in Luke, although he relates the story); the totally random from-the-author's-life stories which seemed to trivialize God rather than make Him accessible.

I just didn't get a good feeling as a whole. Although there were some parts I liked, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
April 20, 2021
This book is focused on women, moms, wives and people that are trying to manage over-booked lives. If you are single and don't overbook your life, this book probably isn't for you. Because this describes me, I didn't find any of the book relevatory. There are some good suggestions for managing your life in a more God-centered way. Many women in my bible study did like this book.

My biggest criticism is regarding the questions and bible readings assigned to each chapter. This part of the book may have been written by someone else entirely as the bible versus rarely matched the content of the chapter, and the questions were centered more around the bible verses than the chapter. I found this off-putting and very disorganized. It didn't make for a cohesive study. Overall, the value of this book came out of the conversations in my bible study, not from the book itself.

Profile Image for Marge.
670 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2013
The premise and scripture that supports taking time for God is right-on, but the style of writing and journaling is not for me. And I still don't understand how things get done if we don't take the time to do them.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
30 reviews14 followers
January 26, 2022
I like this book. My three star rating is due to multiple occurrences of putting words in God's mouth.
January 16, 2023
A solid look at two women and each of their strengths and weaknesses. I loved the way that the author didn’t just focus on Martha’s tendency to work instead of sit at Jesus’ feet, but instead showed her teachability and how she responded differently the next time Jesus showed up (at Lazarus’ death). A good reminder of the balance of work and rest and what that looks like practically.
“John 12:1-3 sketches a portrait of two women at rest. At rest with their savior and at rest with themselves. Martha is still serving, but she does it with an attentive heart. The busy servant has become a focused student as Martha drinks in his every word. Mary breaks open her treasure spilling it out in prophetic ministry to Christ. The contemplative student has become an effective servant as Mary shows her love through her extravagant deed.”
Profile Image for Vinnie.
411 reviews35 followers
February 9, 2019
Joanna Weaver has an enriching way of bringing bible stories to life. In this book she takes us with her to Bethany, to Mary and Martha's home and lets us be part of their life for a few hours. There we learn about the two sisters, their struggles and spiritual enlightenment and we meet Jesus through there eyes. It is a perspective that moved me to tears several times. By telling their story Weaver makes excellent points for daily living in the 21st century. It motivated me to make time with the Lord priority Number 1 again and draw near to him as a way of life. It also made me rethink some areas of my life again. I'm always thankful for spiritual books that challenge me to change if necessary.
378 reviews5 followers
June 22, 2018

In Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weavers struggles with her readers to find balance in life. She describes Martha as giving Kitchen service and Mary as giving Living Room worship to the Lord and talks about the strengths of both. My best takeaways are: 1. There are seasons in life where you are called to primarily serve and there needs to be respites of worship; likewise there are seasons where one is called to primarily worship and it must include some service. 2. By surrendering our days to God, and allowing Him to direct what we do, we can serve with a worshipful heart.

Profile Image for Autumn Rose Smith.
4 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2020
Joanna Weaver does a very good job addressing the issue of “serving or listening” through a detailed study on the sisters-Mary and Martha. One of the biggest problems that women in ministry have these days is finding that balance of time with the Lord or time serving the Lord. Weaver puts it as “two-sided spiritual schizophrenia”, which I thought was an appropriate description. HOWEVER, I would recommend that you read this book with perception, perhaps a small grain of salt and your KJV Bible nearby. Overall it was a lovely read, and I may go back and read it again sometime.
Profile Image for AL.
200 reviews3 followers
June 21, 2022
Well that’s weird. Finished this exactly the same day I started it a year ago🤯

And I’ll be rereading this again. A detailed study on our Mary and Martha tendencies. I found the insight to be helpful and easily applied on a daily basis. I did the study guide questions as I finished each chapter and I found them challenging. I really had to sit and think about how to respond, what I felt and thought. There are great prompts to visit your Bible and further supplement the readings. It’s a 12 week study and I took much longer but am looking forward to diving into a redo sometime while sticking to the 12 weeks. Highly recommend if you’re seeking a Bible study. Can be done solo or with a group for discussion. I would have loved to have used this in discussion but read if alone this time!
Profile Image for Mel.
512 reviews
December 21, 2020
the "quotes" of supposed scripture are not accurate. Then finding page 469 and the additional copyright information I see all of the versions used.
I am always suspicious authors who use multiple versions to fit what they are trying to convey.
pg 67, she "quotes" Luke 10:41, but what version? She doesn't list it and Zondervan recalled.
Suspicious? You should be. The only way man should profit off of God's word is through salvation.
I did not finish this book. It's inaccuracies don't sit well with me.
23 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2019
Did this book as a study with a friend. Highly recommend with the study guide as it guides you in more scripture passages related to what you read. Very practical book on balancing between being in the living room with Jesus and serving in the kitchen.
Profile Image for Jordan Higginbotham.
83 reviews3 followers
December 28, 2020
Some of these books I read to feel less alone in my own struggles. While Weaver offers this, the work is also extremely convicting. I truly believe this is something every woman needs to read as they continue on their journey through life.
Profile Image for Tara-Lee Oostenbrug.
65 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2022
A really good read. A lot of this book resonated deeply with me. Lots of important lessons and biblically based guidance throughout although I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was written. A lot of the analogies made in this book will stick with me!
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