I made a number of discoveries while writing The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned. One of the most impacting? That the trials of life can release our greatest gifts into the world. How does that happen? One way is when those trials are married to our God-given talents. Let me explain.
A Lesson from the Artists
Think about some of the world’s most celebrated artists:
The painter Degas, for example, suffered from retina disease for the last fifty years of his life. He had to switch from using paint to pastel because the chalk lines were easier for him to see. Renoir had to have brushes placed between his fingers when arthritis made them clench like claws. When cancer surgery left Matisse immobile, he turned to collage, getting assistants to attach coloured pieces of paper to a larger sheet fixed on the wall.
Now here’s the interesting thing. For each artist what followed was a new creative breakthrough: Degas’ Blue Dancers. Renoir’s Girls at the Piano. Matisse’s The Sorrows of the King. These and other masterpieces came about from the change of practices forced on each artist.
The marriage of the artist’s trial with their talent birthed something new.
Degas’ Blue Dancers (Wikiart, public domain)
There are other examples:
Maya Angelou found her writer’s voice by combing her experiences of poverty, racism and abuse with her poetic talents. Joni Eareckson-Tada combined her quadriplegia with a gift of encouragement to start Joni and Friends, an organisation that’s helped countless people with disabilities all around the world. After being incarcerated for his part in the Watergate scandal, Chuck Colson combined that humbling experience with his leadership abilities to start Prison Fellowship, which has changed the lives of inmates, their families, and victims of crime everywhere.
What is Your Trial?
What trial have you faced? What deep pain, setback or difficulty? Mine that experience for its:
- The empathy it has birthed in you
- The doors it has opened into new tribes of people you would have otherwise never met
What is Your Talent?
Then marry that trial with your talents—your God-given gifts and strengths:
- Artistic talents
- Organisational abilities
- Mercy to people in need
- Prophetic insight
- Pastoral care
- Social action
- (There are many gifts to explore)
Then start to imagine what new books, artworks, poems, policies, blogs, podcasts, ministries, community groups and more could be birthed that might bring hope and help to others.
This video is one of a 6-part series based on my new book The Making of Us.
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