The Greatness Just Below the Surface

George Frideric HandelThe composer lay down his baton at the conclusion of what he believed would be his last performance. At 56, he’d already suffered a stroke which temporarily paralyzed his right arm. His life had been marked by an endless string of financial failures from which even his formidable talent had been unable to rescue him. In 1741, in England, that usually meant confinement to debtors’ prison.

But then, two seemingly small events converged which would change his life. He received a libretto from a friend based on the life of Christ, and a commission from a charity to compose music for a benefit performance. He worked feverishly, hardly eating or sleeping but rapturously lost in a creative ecstasy, known only to masters such as himself. In only three weeks, his masterpiece was complete. His name—George Frideric Handel. The masterpiece—his celebrated oratorio Messiah, a triumph of musical genius that still enjoys a place of honor amongst Christmas and Easter performances over 250 years later. The house in London where he composed the work is now a museum dedicated to him. And ironically, the first charity performances of Messiah provided funds for dozens of people to be released from debtors’ prison.

History is replete with the triumphs of men and women that were preceded by what appeared to be their darkest hour. I have often wondered why the adversary tries so hard to discourage us in our righteous endeavors. Surely he must know that God’s power is monumentally greater than his. Surely he knows he cannot succeed. Or does he?

No, the adversary actually does not know the big picture. He believes that our darkest hours really can be our end result, not a temporary darkness that precedes a breaking dawn of hope and success. Only God knows what great blessings are in store for us. Only He sees the richest blessings yet hidden from our view. His plans cannot be thwarted, but He needs us to trust Him and know that all will be well, that we must not give up on the threshold of what could be our finest hour.

Classical pianist/comedian Victor Borge (1909-2000) told a favorite joke about his grandfather who had invented his own soft drink by mixing four ingredients and calling it 4-Up. It did not succeed so he added an ingredient and called it 5-Up. Still no one would buy it, so he added one more and named it 6-Up. It was a complete failure. His grandfather gave up and died penniless and heartbroken. “Little did he know how close he came,” concluded Borge, to the audience’s laughter. There is a valuable lesson for us all in Handel’s experience and Borge’s joke. During our darkest hours, we cannot see the unbounded success waiting only feet or seconds away. No matter what your present path looks like, stay on it and follow it where it leads. Don’t miss the beautiful view just ahead of you because of rocks along the way.

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