by Bill Mowry (alongsider.com)
The Monday afternoon conversation went downhill fast. “How’s your week starting out Bill?” asked a friend.
“I’m overwhelmed already,” I replied.
Some weeks are like this. Every Monday morning, I plan my next two weeks of life. I review my calendar, check my priorities, and make my “to do” list — who to email, people to call, tasks to complete, people to see. Writing it down helps me remember. But, this list can overwhelm. Sometimes I feel I’m living in a whirlwind of activities. Jesus also faced this same dilemma.
We catch the whirlwind of Jesus’s life and ministry in Mark 3.
- he faced criticism (:4)
- he got angry (:5)
- a large crowd followed Him (:7)
- vase numbers came to see him (:8)
- the crowd threatened to crush him (:9)
- the sick “eagerly pushed forward” to touch him (:10)
- so many needy people He couldn’t find time to eat (:20)
- His family said he was “out of his mind” (:21)
- religious leaders said he was possessed by Satan (:22)
My days don’t look so bad in comparison! Jesus lived in a maelstrom of pressing crowds, needy people, and personal critics. What choices did he make to live in the whirlwind?
First, Jesus didn’t run and hide, He looked out for others. When he entered a synagogue he saw a man with a deformed hand and healed him (Mark 3:1-6). He could have pulled into himself and reviewed his Synagogue message but he looked outward, saw a need and healed a man.
The easiest way to get some clarity in the whirlwind is to serve others. We have some new neighbors. I don’t want to meet them because I have so much to do. But Peggy and I have decided to buy some flowers and walk across the street and welcome them to the neighborhood. A small moment of service gives perspective to the whirlwind.
Jesus challenged the whirlwind’s power by getting emotional about the right things. Whirlwinds bring a variety of emotions to life — such as fear, anxiety, or anger. Our Lord was both angered and saddened by the response of people when He healed a man’s hand (3:5). They saw the act as a violation of the law. Jesus saw it as an act of mercy. He got mad and then he got sad.
The whirlwind can produce a variety of emotions in my life. Some days I place a little smiley face, a frowning face, or a straight-line face in my journal. It captures how I’m feeling at the moment. My emotions reflect my frustration, joy, anticipation, or boredom. Emotions need to be admitted and owned but I must make careful choices on the ones to cultivate. I need to get mad and sad about what makes our Lord mad and sad.
Another step that Jesus took to navigate through the whirlwind was to pray. Luke records how he spent all night in prayer before choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12-13). Studying the “Lord’s Prayer” has taught me that prayer is more about re-orienting myself to God’s priorities than presenting a laundry list of requests. Jesus departed from the whirlwind to capture a sense of God’s priorities.
Why did he pray? He was about to make a momentous choice for his ministry. He was shifting from gathering crowds to investing in a small circle of disciples (3:14-14). Jesus cheated the whirlwind by living beyond the present. The present moment meant teaching and maintaining the crowds. Living beyond the present meant training a few who would lead his future church. He chose to live beyond the crush of the present.
The crush of the present shrinks our worlds. When my to-do list gets big, my life space gets small. I want to shrink inside myself to survive what’s going on outside. It’s at this moment that I cheat the whirlwind by living beyond my present circumstances.
Since I’m in the “disciplemaking business,” a simple step to live beyond the present is investing in people — men and women who will expand my life space, people who will live for Christ in generations to come. Living beyond the present means making an investment in the future.
Finally, Jesus confronts the challenges by not retreating. He overheard the accusation of the scribes, saying that he was possessed by Satan (3:22). He did not retreat from this challenge, hiding behind the multitudes’ adoration. Jesus confronted his accusers, skillfully defeating their argument (3:23-27).
It’s easy to retreat when we get caught up in the whirlwind. I don’t want to respond to the next email. I don’t want to have this difficult conversation. I don’t want to pay the bills. The whirlwind wants to suck out my life. It’s at this point that I must boldly confront the challenges — check the emails, have the difficult conversation, pay the bills. Facing challenges head-on places me in a faith posture where God breathes new life into my heart as I trust Him to do what is difficult.
Jesus’ whirlwind did not stop and neither does mine. The wind’s deafening noise of things to do, people to see, and choices to make is still swirling. However, His example helps reduce the wind’s roar so I can hear that still small voice.
Are you caught up in a whirlwind? May Jesus’ example give some hope. Look out for others, get emotional about the right things, re-orient life through prayer, live beyond the present, and confront life’s challenges and don’t retreat. Defeat the whirlwind’s fury this week!