“. . . My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (See 2 Corinthian, s 12:7-10).
The greatest violinist in the world cannot carry his own instrument onto the stage. Itzhak Perlman had polio when he was four-years-old. He walks with crutches. Born in Jaffa, Israel, Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963, and later became an American citizen. He has played on Sesame Street, for the movie Shindler’s List, and at the White House for Queen Elizabeth. He exudes joy. When he performed at The Tennessee Theater a few years ago he received a standing ovation – before he began playing!
Perlman reminds us that God can and does use suffering to build character. In fact, saints are often made in the crucible of suffering. Our heroes (the real ones) are heroes precisely because they overcome adversity. The music of Itzhak Perlman is even more glorious when you know where he has been, what he has suffered, and the gift he has nurtured through adversity. In the text from 2 Corinthians Paul exclaims, “I will glory in my sufferings...”! In fact, Philippians 3:10 indicates that the Christian life is more about suffering than “prospering”. We want to use God as a gadget to avoid suffering and he wants to use suffering to mold us into the image of Christ.
Perlman also reminds us that “to whom much is given, much is required”. After earning multiple Grammy Awards, Perlman has gone on to become a musical advisor for symphony orchestras. He teaches “the next generation” at Julliard. He conducts a special summer school for youth in New York. This is something you see in real heroes – a gratitude, a giving back, a recognition that they have received much and that much is required. Too many “celebrities” in our culture have received much from their Heavenly father (and from their earthly daddy), but behave as spoiled brats who are entitled to be selfish and narcissistic. It’s always sobering to see those who have received much and accomplish nothing – and those who have received little or nothing, but accomplish much. God has given each of us a life, this day, free will. He has made us in his image and placed eternity in our hearts. What will do with these gifts?
Perlman teaches us that God’s grace can perfect even our weaknesses. It is easy for us to see the gifts of others – a famous musician, a star athlete, a brilliant scholar, or a great dancer. Everyone has a gift. The Bible says so. What is your gift? What will you do to develop/use it? Perlman is a testimony to the fact that victims can become victors. The great characters of the Bible all overcame problems and difficulty to be named in “Faith’s Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11). Then there is . . . Jesus. He is the supreme example of accomplishing the will and plan of God through great hardship and even opposition. It’s fascinating to listen to Perlman playing The Dance of the Goblins! Played by artist who has great difficulty walking! Glory be to God!
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.