In the Eye of the Stormby Max Lucado
Come face-to-face with Jesus when He experienced more stress than any other day of his life aside from his crucifixion. Before the morning became evening, he has reason to weep, run, shout, curse, praise, and doubt. If you know what it means to be caught in life's storms…if you've ever ridden the roller coaster of sorrow and celebration…if you've ever wondered if God in heaven can relate to you on earth, then this book will encourage and inspire you.
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In the Eye of the Storm
By MAX LUCADO
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 1991 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFrom Calm to Chaos
MAYBE YOU CAN RELATE TO the morning I just had.
It's Sunday. Sundays are always busy days for me. Sundays are always early days for me. Today promised to be no exception.
With a full slate of activities planned, I got up early and drove to church. There was not much traffic at 6:00 AM. I had the roads to myself. The orange of dawn had yet to break the nighttime spell on the summer's black sky. The twilight sparkled. Cool air wafted.
I parked outside my church office and took a minute to enjoy the quietude. I set down my books, picked up my coffee, and leaned against the car.
It was just the star-studded sky and me. Across the city, lights flickered. Shadowed trees slept. The night was calm: no noise, no hurry, no demands. That would all change within a couple of hours. Let a few thousand alarm clocks buzz and a few thousand garage doors open, and the serenity would be invaded as suburbia awakened. But at the moment, suburbia slept.
Life is like that sometimes. There are jaunts in life's journey that are as glassy as a midnight lake on a windless night. No noise. No rushing. No crises. There are measures in our music where the conductor silences the kettledrum, and only the flute isallowed to sing.
And sing she does. Under the spell of her song, deadlines aren't as deadly. Death is distant. Dear ones are still dear and sometimes near. The eclipsing clouds of fear and debts and angry phone calls have passed. And, for a while, your world is moonlit.
Mine was. I sat on the hood of my car, sipped my coffee, and toasted the stars. They twinkled their response.
It was calm. But calm has a way of becoming chaos.
With a briefcase in one hand and a coffee cup in the other, I walked and whistled across the parking lot to the office door. To enter my office, I had to get past the sleeping dog of the twentieth century: the alarm system. I set down my briefcase and unlocked the door. I picked up my briefcase and walked in.
The code box on the wall was flashing a red light.
I'm not too electronically inclined, but I do know what a red light on an alarm system means: "Punch in the code, buddy, or get ready for the music."
I punched in the code. Nothing happened. I punched in the code again. The little red light kept blinking. I punched it in again. Time was running out. The little light snickered at me. I could hear the message being sent up and down the wires to all the neon-eyed alarm gremlins. "Man your sirens, everybody. Ol' do-do brain is entering his bank-card number again!"
I kept pushing, the clock kept ticking, the light kept flashing, and the gremlins were getting excited. "Get ready! Ten seconds and counting. Ten, nine, eight ..."
"Oh, no," I groaned, "it's about to hit."
The siren pounced on me like a mountain lion. I thought we were under nuclear attack. Floodlights flash flooded the hallway, and red strobes turned. I kept pushing buttons, and the alarm kept blaring. You'd have thought it was a breakout at Alcatraz.
My pulse raced, my forehead moistened, and my situation was desperate. I raced down the hall to my office, pulled open the lap drawer of my desk, and found the phone number of the alarm company.
I could barely hear what the man said when he answered. When I understood what he said, I could scarcely believe he had said it.
"What do you mean, 'What's the matter?'" I exclaimed. "Can't you hear?"
"Yes, I punched in the code," I screamed. "It didn't do any good!"
The next twenty minutes were loud, demanding, confusing, and aggravating. I was speaking to technicians I couldn't see about equipment I didn't understand trying to understand words I couldn't hear.
That's when the policeman came. He tapped on the window. I opened it. "I can't get the thing to shut off!" I yelled.
"You the preacher here?" he asked.
"Yes," I yelled.
He just shook his head and walked away, probably muttering something about what they don't teach in theology courses.
Finally, for no apparent reason, the siren ceased. The lights shut off. What had been an air-raid shelter became an office again. I walked back to my desk, sat down, and sighed. What a way to begin the day. The morning lesson I had prepared was lying on my credenza. I picked it up and read the first line: "When calm becomes chaos."
"Appropriate," I muttered.
Ever happened to you? When was the last time your life went from calm to chaos in half a minute? ("How many examples would you like?" you ask.) When was the last time you found yourself pushing buttons that didn't respond, struggling with instructions you couldn't hear, or operating a system you didn't understand?
You enter the wrong computer code and lose eighteen months worth of ledgers in a matter of seconds. Calm volcanoes into chaos.
A message on your answering machine tells you that the report you are scheduled to give next week is due tomorrow. Good-bye sleep. Hello all-nighter. Good-bye calm. Hello chaos.
The mechanic who promised that the car would be ready today in time for the trip says, "I know I promised, but it's much worse than we thought. Your side axle disjointed, causing the U-joint to descramble the electronic ignition that is hand-assembled in Lower Tasmania and ..."
If you've ever had your spouse call you at the office and say, "Just got a letter from the IRS. They are going to audit ..."
If your boss has ever begun a conversation with these words: "You're a good worker, but with all this talk about a recession we have to cut back ..."
If your teenager has ever walked in and asked, "Does our car insurance cover the other guy's car?"
Then you know that life can go from calm to chaos in a matter of moments. No warnings. No announcements. No preparation.
Little red lights blink, and you start pushing buttons. Sometimes you silence the alarm; sometimes it rips the air like a demon. The result can be peace or panic. The result can be calm or chaos.
It all depends on one factor: do you know the code?
For me, this morning became chaos. Had I been prepared ... had I known the code ... had I known what to do when the warning flashed ... calm would have triumphed.
The next few pages will usher you into a day in Jesus' life when the calm could have become chaos. It has all the elements of anxiety: bad news and a death threat, followed by swarming demands, interruptions, inept disciples, and a blazing temptation to follow the crowd. In twenty-four pressure-packed hours, Jesus was carried from the summit of celebration to the valley of frustration.
It was the second most stressful day of his life. As soon as one alarm was disarmed, another began blinking. The rulers threatened. The crowds pressed. The followers doubted. The people demanded. When you see what he endured that day, you will wonder how he kept his cool.
Somehow, though, he did. Although the people pressed and the problems monsooned, Jesus didn't blow up or bail out. In fact, he did just the opposite. He served people, thanked God, and made cool-headed decisions.
I want to help you see how he did it. I'd like to share with you a few "internal codes" that you desperately need. Equip yourself with these internal codes, punch them in when the red lights of your world start to flash, and you will be amazed at how quickly the alarms will be disarmed.
A few words of explanation:
If you are looking for external adjustments, you won't find them here. I won't say anything about dressing for success or power language or popularity schemes. You can buy many books that will help you externally, but this isn't one of them.
What you will discover in this book are attitudes ... godly attitudes ... a way of viewing people and problems as modeled by the Master.
If you want external alteration, look elsewhere. If you want internal development, read on. If you want to see how God handled-and handles-hassles, then I've got some thoughts to share with you.
Let's do something. Let's take the principles modeled by Jesus into our day-to-day whirlwind of demands and decisions. Let's take a few minutes and observe God under pressure. Let's watch his face. Listen to his words. Observe his choices. And see what we can learn. Let's watch Christ in a pressure-cooker environment and try to answer this question:
What did Jesus know that allowed him to do what he did?
Chapter TwoGod Under Pressure
A DAY IN THE LIFE of Christ.
Call it a tapestry of turmoil, a noisy pictorial in which the golden threads of triumph entwine with the black, frazzled strings of tragedy.
Call it a symphony of emotions, a sunrise-to-sunset orchestration of extremes. One score is brassy with exuberance; the next moans with sorrow. On one page, the orchestra swells in adoration. On the next, Jesus solos the ballad of loneliness.
Whatever you call it, call it real. Call it a day in which Jesus experiences more stress than he will any other day of his life-aside from his crucifixion. Before the morning becomes evening, he has reason to weep ... run ... shout ... curse ... praise ... doubt.
From calm to chaos. From peace to perplexity. Within moments his world is turned upside down.
In the tapestry, though, there is one thread that sparkles. In the symphony, there is one song that soars. In the story, there is one lesson that comforts. You've heard it before, but you may have forgotten it. Look closely. Listen intently. Be reminded:
Jesus knows how you feel.
If you've ever had a day in which you've been blitzkrieged by demands, if you've ever ridden the roller coaster of sorrow and celebration, if you've ever wondered if God in heaven can relate to you on earth, then read and reread about this pressure-packed day in the life of Christ.
Take heart. Jesus knows how you feel.
* * *
He begins the morning by hearing about the death of John the Baptist: his cousin, his forerunner, his coworker, his friend. The man who came closer to understanding Jesus than any other is dead.
Imagine losing the one person who knows you better than anyone else, and you will feel what Jesus is feeling. Reflect on the horror of being told that your dearest friend has just been murdered, and you will relate to Jesus' sorrow. Consider your reaction if you were told that your best friend had just been decapitated by a people-pleasing, incestuous monarch, and you'll see how the day begins for Christ. His world is beginning to turn upside down.
The emissaries brought more than news of sorrow, however; they brought a warning: "The same Herod who took John's head is interested in yours." Listen to how Luke presents the monarch's madness: "Herod said, 'I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?' And he tried to see him" (emphasis mine). Something tells me that Herod wanted more than a social visit.
So, with John's life taken and his own life threatened, Jesus chooses to get away for a while. "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."
But before he can get away, his disciples arrive. The Gospel of Mark states that the "apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught." They return exuberant. Jesus had commissioned them to proclaim the gospel and authenticate it with miracles. "They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them."
Can you imagine the excitement? Can you envision the scene? A reunion of twelve friends. A reuniting of disciples with their teacher. A homecoming bubbling with testimonies:
Peter describing a lame man he healed.
John telling of a crowd he taught.
Andrew recounting the deliverance of an epileptic.
James relating to Jesus how the crowds followed him wherever he went.
Matthew reporting the healing of a blind woman.
Remember, these disciples were ordinary men. They weren't orators, scholars, kings, or saints. They were fishermen and a tax collector, common laborers who, by God's power, had taken a nation by storm. The emotion? Exuberance. In a matter of moments, Jesus' heart goes from the pace of a funeral dirge to the triumphant march of a tickertape parade.
And look who follows the disciples to locate Jesus. About five thousand men plus women and children! Rivers of people cascade out of the hills and villages. Some scholars estimate the crowd to be as high as twenty-five thousand. They swarm around Jesus, each with one desire: to meet the man who had empowered the disciples.
What had been a calm morning now buzzes with activity. "So many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat."
I've had people demand my attention. I know what it's like to have a half-dozen kids wanting different things at the same time. I know the feeling of receiving one call with two other people waiting impatiently on other lines. I even know what it's like to be encircled by a dozen or so people, each making a separate request.
But twenty-five thousand? That's larger than many cities! No wonder the disciples couldn't eat. I'm surprised they could breathe!
* * *
The morning has been a jungle trail of the unexpected. First Jesus grieves over the death of a dear friend and relative. Then his life is threatened. Next he celebrates the triumphant return of his followers. Then he is nearly suffocated by a brouhaha of humanity. Bereavement ... jeopardy ... jubilation ... bedlam.
Are you beginning to see why I call this the second most stressful day in the life of Christ? And it's far from over.
Jesus decides to take the disciples to a quiet place where they can rest and reflect. He shouts a command over the noise of the crowd. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." The thirteen fight their way to the beach and climb into a boat.
And, for a few precious moments, the world is quiet again. The din of the crowd grows distant and the only sound is the slap of the water against the hull. Jesus' heart is weighted by sorrow and buoyed by joy. He watches his followers swapping stories of victory. Then he raises his glance and sees on the horizon Tiberias, the city constructed by John the Baptist's murderer, Herod. Joy suddenly alloyed with indignation causes his fists to clench and his eyes to moisten.
Who would question his desire to get away from the people? He just needs a few hours alone. Just a respite. Just a retreat. Time to pray. Time to ponder. Time to weep. A time without crowds or demands. A campfire wreathed with friends. An evening with those he loves. The people can wait until tomorrow.
The people, however, have other ideas. "The crowds learned about it and followed him." It's a six-mile walk around the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee, so the crowd takes a hike. When Jesus got to Bethsaida, his desired retreat had become a roaring arena.
Add to the list of sorrow, peril, excitement, and bedlam the word interruption. Jesus' plans are interrupted. What he has in mind for his day and what the people have in mind for his day are two different agendas. What Jesus seeks and what Jesus gets are not the same.
Remember when you sought a night's rest and got a colicky baby? Remember when you sought to catch up at the office and got even further behind? Remember when you sought to use your Saturday for leisure but ended up fixing your neighbor's sink?
Take comfort, friend. It happened to Jesus too.
In fact, this would be a good time to pause and digest the central message of this chapter.
Jesus knows how you feel.
Ponder this and use it the next time your world goes from calm to chaos.
His pulse has raced. His eyes have grown weary. His heart has grown heavy. He has had to climb out of bed with a sore throat. He has been kept awake late and has gotten up early. He knows how you feel.
You may have trouble believing that. You probably believe that Jesus knows what it means to endure heavy-duty tragedies. You are no doubt convinced that Jesus is acquainted with sorrow and has wrestled with fear. Most people accept that. But can God relate to the hassles and headaches of my life? Of your life?
Excerpted from In the Eye of the Storm by MAX LUCADO Copyright © 1991 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
More than 120 million readers have found inspiration and encouragement in the writings of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.
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