Life has left me a bit weary lately. To be honest, I really didn’t feel like I had a lot to offer. Fortunately, God is never empty, dry, or uninspired. While I didn’t have a clue what to write about, the Father had other plans.
As I sat down at the computer to write, I heard a song playing from my daughter’s MP3 player. It was recorded by my piano teacher, her husband who was my violin teacher, and several of their family members. It was a song that captured their journey to Jesus, their faith, and their passion. Aha!! Here is a story to be told!
While I was a college sophomore, a Jewish couple from Brazil came to teach at our college under a special contract. They captured our hearts and imaginations immediately. From their melodious Brazilian accents to their mastery of instruments, these concert musicians were at once superheroes yet also irresistibly down-to-earth.
I was fortunate enough to have private lessons with each of them. They each breathed life into me.
From them, I learned how to persevere when times got tough. I learned that music is all about the heart you put into it. I learned that after all the technique is mastered, your music is nothing unless you play with the depths of your emotion. I learned that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I learned that talent is useless without hard work.
But the most important lesson I learned was in piano lessons:
She reserved her harshest criticism for when I played my best. The most dreaded lesson was one where she said little to nothing about my playing. It meant that my effort wasn’t worthy of her energy. Her most enthusiastic instruction was reserved for the weeks when my playing revealed the blood, sweat, and tears that happened in the practice rooms.
Then the instructions began…
“Fix this passage!”
“NO! Don’t do it that way!”
“That sounded terrible. Try this.”
“You are playing with no passion!”
But the criticism didn’t sting for long. I had pleased her, made her happy. She was proud of me. The criticisms just meant I was ready for her next level of instruction.
Isn’t that the way it is with God? When we are smugly pleased with ourselves, God leaves us alone. We don’t really think we need Him anyways. It is when we pour blood, sweat, and tears into humble repentance that He sits up and takes notice. When we seek Him with all our hearts, He begins the painful purifying process.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” –James 4:8-10 NIV
The purpose of piano lessons was to make me a better pianist. They did not exist for my comfort. The teachers who praised me for minimal practice did nothing to help me improve. Why bother? I worked my hardest for my beloved teacher who wasn’t afraid to criticize me in love.
The purpose of the Christian life is to make us more like Christ. If our lives are full of comfort and enjoyment, but we fail to be conformed to Christ’s image, then we have not accomplished our true purpose. We might be comfortable, but we are no better off than when we started.
When I experience a parade of trials, I know that I am about to see the hand of God. The Father pushes me past my comfort zone. He whispers in my ear:
“I will never leave you.”
“Ask me for wisdom.”
“I will give you strength.”
“Ask for prayer.”
The struggles position me to seek God with my whole heart. The pressures that reveal my inadequacy also enable the humility that attracts the power of God.
“For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” –Psalm 149:4 NIV
So don’t be overwhelmed by the hard times. God will use them to accomplish His purpose in us. The treasures we gain from them will far outweigh the pain we suffered.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4 NIV