We all know what a martyr is. We've all heard heartrending stories of heroic men and women who, down through the ages, have paid the ultimate price and been killed for what they believe. But there's another kind of martyr without courage and nobility. I'm sure we all know one—a great and constant sufferer who's always willing to share their pain with anyone who will listen. This martyr wants everyone around to know the sacrifices they're making in their life.
I once knew a woman like this. She felt like a slave to her family, and she definitely had the attitude of a martyr. I got so tired of hearing her continually talk about how much she did for everyone and how little anyone appreciated her. I could tell she kept a running account of the work she was doing versus the reward she was receiving for it. Eventually, she ruined her marriage and most of her relationships with her children. What a tragedy!
The Martyr Trap
The "martyr trap" is such an easy one to fall into. We start out serving our families and friends and loving it. But after a while, our hearts begin to change and we begin to expect something in return. After all, we're working so hard and sacrificing so much. Eventually, we no longer have the heart of a servant. We become discouraged because our expectations aren't being met. Our attitude sours, and we soon find out we've become mired in self-pity. We've become a martyr.
One morning as I got up and went downstairs to make coffee, the Lord encouraged me to make a fruit salad for my husband. Dave loves fruit salad in the morning, and I knew it would be a nice gesture for me to do this for him. He wasn't up yet, so I had time to prepare it and then surprise him with it when he came downstairs.
The problem was, I didn't want to make him a fruit salad. I would've taken him a banana or an apple, but I didn't want to take the time to cut up all the fruit, put it in a bowl, and then serve it to him. I wanted to go pray and read my Bible instead! I thought, Why do I always have to do this stuff for him? Why doesn't he do things for me? After all, I have to study the Bible and pray. It's my ministry!
It's funny how we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that spiritual activity somehow takes the place of obedience and makes us more holy—because it doesn't. The Lord patiently reminded me that serving my husband in this way was actually serving Him. So I obediently made the fruit salad and surprised Dave with it when he came downstairs.
I wonder how many marriages could have been saved from divorce if husbands and wives had been willing to show love by serving one another. It seems that everyone today wants to be "free" and Jesus has indeed set us free. But He never intended for us to use that freedom selfishly. He wants us to serve others.
Be a Servant
I definitely love my husband, and sometimes that love is best expressed through service. Words are wonderful, but when you walk in love, your commitment must contain much more than just words. How can I truly love my husband if I never want to do anything for him?
I don't recall getting any particular reward that morning for making Dave's fruit salad. He did thank me, but nothing spectacular happened. However, I'm sure there were rewards of peace and joy in my life that I didn't even realize—benefits of obedience that I didn't even see.
I'm sure we lose a lot of blessings we never even know about simply because we fail to do for others what we would like to have done for us. We always want to be blessed in return by the people we bless, but it doesn't always work that way.
If your marriage or family isn't what you would like it to be, you could literally turn it around by adopting this one principle right now. You may have been waiting for your spouse to do something for you. Maybe you have even been stubbornly refusing to be the first to make a move. Swallow your pride and save your marriage. Stop talking about all the sacrifices you make and start serving your spouse. Make them the focus, not you…and be a servant, not a martyr!