On the wall in front of my desk is a painting that captures my attention, reminding me again and again that I am the creation of my heavenly Father and He is ever in touch with me in every circumstance of life. It is a painting of a portion of that great work of Michelangelo that is found in the Sistine Chapel. It shows the finger of God stretching down to touch the finger of Adam, his concept of the creation scene.
On a related note, recently I had the occasion to see again the movie, “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, the story of Michelangelo’s plaster-fresco painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and the utter agony he suffered in accomplishing this work. On towering scaffolds, constantly bent over backward to apply his craft, contending with wet weather’s mold and thus, the difficultly of plaster’s curing time, through winter’s cold and summer’s heat, he slaved to complete it. On a curved ceiling 60 feet high, 131 by 43 feet, he created the 5000 square feet of fresco from July of 1508 to October of 1512. Today it still remains a remarkable achievement.
Indeed, “human history…out of the shadows of suffering have sprung the great literature, the great paintings, the great philosophies, the great civilizations. All of them have blossomed into the light out of the shadows of suffering.” Even logic shares this fact – if that which I dream of as the idealic life, the perfect place and life of peace and all of the blessedness that I could ever imagine, it is logical to assume that all that precedes such a dream is, by comparison, suffering in the less-than perfect present.
When we look to the Scriptures, the intimate moments of agony in the beautiful Mt. of Olives, from which heaven would finally be reclaimed, would have their ultimate consummation of suffering in the cross on another hill. The path to glory from the Mount had to go down in order to be lifted up.
My own existence and its thoughts of glory in this moment must realize the next moment’s return to the valley of shadows if I would mount up to the reality of glory in the tomorrow beyond this day’s measure of pain.
This contrasting note of suffering preluding glory’s consummation is Paul’s driving force as he glories in his suffering as a reach to the perfection of the glory to be revealed. It stands to reason then that the depths of suffering will increase by degrees the heights of glorious joy to be attained. And no difficult transition is this. 2 Timothy 2:12 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” 2 Corinthians 4:11 “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
Scientifically, it has been said that there is only a minute difference in the extremes of hot and cold, for they are like the opposite ends of a wire that is curved to form a circle, the suffering of one end and the glory of the other, brought into near contact’s joining. Time also, with all that it contains, is said to have a warp that puts the past quite near the future. Such ideas are not always understood or shared by the everyday musing of man, however, they do declare the reality of God, who is so timeless that His eternal past and future are present reality, and it is to this existence we are called out of our weakness and suffering to enjoy the timeless glory of perfect life with Him. Oh God, may I with Paul, so accept and glory in my weakness, that Your strength may help me and others to realize the music that is coming after this prelude of suffering is accomplished.
Here’s my own few lines to describe my meditations:
My life’s a prelude of songs in the night,
A durge of its suffering through wrong crushing right.
The notes being played from this first page of score,
Reveal with their rhythm of what is in store.
But words here aren’t written, no joy song is sung,
For that is reserved ‘til prelude’s finale is rung.
Life’s choir of suffered silence waits for its note to play,
When life’s prelude has concluded in that hymn of perfect day. (Jim)
Be encouraged in today’s valley as you move toward tomorrow’s mountain.