Exquisite Agony: Becoming a Masterpiece

The Way God Shapes You from the Rough Places

Without question, he defined what it meant to be a “Renaissance Man.” Michelangelo—born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni—is remembered as one of the most gifted Italian sculptors, painters, architects, and poets of all time.

Painter
(Image from Unsplash)

In fact, some say his approach to art was almost mystical. It’s been said he would study the blank canvas or chunk of marble and see in its shadows the finished product. Only then would he begin to create works of legendary art.

As with all sculpting and shaping processes, a variety of tools were needed. Some rocky surfaces required . . .

  • Hard blows
  • Weighty mallet
  • Wide chisel
  • Rough strokes

Others needed the touch of a feather for refinement—slow and patient hands shaping with meticulous effort until the final structure was completed.

In the end, the sculpture became strikingly glorious and exquisitely timeless by what was cut away from the original block of stone.

It is also known that Michelangelo was alone most of the time. Whether by choice or by circumstance, this creative man struggled with isolation.

Who would believe his personal reality was difficult by looking at his public accomplishments?

Faithfulness

As I write these words, I’m thinking of another gifted man who was also lonely. Ezekiel.

Ezekiel surrendered his life to the Lord in the same way as marble gave way to Michelangelo’s able hands. In the hands of our sovereign God, Ezekiel’s faith was shaped and deepened.

While the pain was agonizing, it produced a refined, resolved soul whom God used in a mighty way. God sculpted his life as a monument to both His wrath and His enduring compassion during the tumultuous times in which Ezekiel lived. Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon.

Yes, a captive . . . under horrible circumstances.

Why would God plop Ezekiel into horrible captivity and say he was “called”? “Called” to exile? “Called” to be a refugee? In addition to this, God cut a chunk out of Ezekiel’s heart.

He informed Ezekiel that his treasured wife would lose her life, a sign of God’s anger with the house of Israel (Ezekiel 24:16).

God commanded Ezekiel not to grieve in the customary way. In the morning, Ezekiel was warned; the next evening, his beloved was dead.

ARE YOU KIDDING? Seriously, Lord?

Seriously.

Ezekiel’s response:

So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do (24:18).

How did Ezekiel endure? The truth is, we don’t know the details of how. It appears that the Lord made Ezekiel mute after he declared God’s words (24:27).

Perhaps in his silence, Ezekiel had a sort of haven. His obedience, even after such a deep, deep cut, is otherworldly. Though Ezekiel yielded his life to the Lord as marble surrendered to Michelangelo’s able hands, Ezekiel’s faith was not chipped away.

sculptor

(Image from Pixabay)

I like to imagine that God’s presence spoke to Ezekiel, comforting him in the midst of his grief, rewarding him with His presence because of his faithful obedience.

A New Heart

It may be that you are in a place of isolation or have hit rough times. God has gifted you in ways others envy. You long to use your gifts to honor the Lord, but He has closed the doors you once thought would be open.

You may almost feel like you are in captivity. In these times, remember Ezekiel.

Just as God formed and fashioned Ezekiel’s life, so He is doing with yours. A master artist, He sees what needs to be whittled—or sandblasted—away. The blows of life are so painful, but God doesn’t waste a single one.

Even pain, in God’s hands, can be a transformative tool. As God does His work, surrender your life to His hands. He knows what He’s doing.

What is God carving out of the rough rock of your life?

Our circumstances and status, brains and bodies don’t define our value. In fact, having more and knowing more can make circumstances more complicated.

How do we endure? Like Ezekiel, we yield to the Master’s hands. In Ezekiel 36:26–27, God called the people to repent of their evil ways and turn back to Him. He promised:

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

A “new heart” means a new mental disposition—a soul transformed from sinful and rebellious to spiritual and holy.

God promised to take the heart of stone and sculpt it, shape it into one disposed to surrender and even suffering as part of the transformation process.

As Creator, God sees a masterpiece in the marble of our human hearts.

Every circumstance, every experience, every gift, every loss, every single event in our lives can be used to grow us strong and steadfast if we choose to follow Him above all else.

Let Me Hear from You

How is God reframing your heart? Let’s connect on that this week.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Mary Tutterow

    Again, you have spoken directly into our situation – which has been feeling like a prison. Our adult daughter’s seizures leave her more and more debilitated as she ages. There need to be two people with her at all times to help her as she is somewhat mobile, but prone to trips and falls. She weighs 170 lbs. Paid caregivers have abandoned ship for easier work. So my husband has sacrificed work hours to stay home with us. we are now selling our home and moving into a wheelchair accessible condo. Truly, we have laid down our lives. People tell us all the time, “Stop being martyrs. Put her in a home,” but just like Ezekiel, we know He is giving us new hearts through this excrutiating work. He is giving us a voice to speak out about the purpose and value of those society treats as disposable. The numbers of people who are disabled or aging are exploding. They are here to guide us back to what is essential – love.

    • Oh my gosh, Mary…you are honestly one of my hero’s! It’s one thing for folks to say they will ‘lay down their lives’; it’s another ball game all together when you HAVE to lay down your lives! And you are. I can’t imagine the grief and yet the joy. Isn’t the Christian life full of polarities-what appears to be in opposition is actually what brings us together.
      My first thought as you said you were moving to an accessible facility was… “I can’t imagine or wait to hear about all the lives you will touch”. Mary, God has you going to a place where you will be so much light in darkness…your path is about to widen with purpose. I use the word “widen” specifically because you are already fulfilling His purpose by how you love and care for His child, on loan to you for a good and transforming work. As you move to a new and different space, He goes before you, widening your path and giving you strength. WOW!
      Yes, it’s extremely hard…but I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy before his death. There, in that damp, dark, cold prison cell he penned… “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed…I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
      Mary, He walks before you and I pray along with you. PLEASE let me know how you are doing. I am so honored to connect with you today! Colleen

  • Missy Wang

    Colleen great post. Was just talking to a friend about this just today. Just wish at time it didn’t hurt so much to be refined. Or a lesson you thought you had conquered comes back. The plucking hurts at times. So very thankful for my God who’s heals those wounds as he plucks them out. Little do we know to he shields us with his power. I get a picture of me on my knees and God is just standing over me with a shield and its fighting off all that could truly hurt me and kill me. So maybe it hurts the plucking but it could be even worse. Not sure that made sense but you get my meaning. Pressing forward. Hope things are well with you it been awhile since Ive posted.

    • Missy,
      It is wonderful hearing from you. I’ve been away taking some time off so I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I have felt exactly as you just described…like “I thought I had dealt with this before…why is it back?”. My therapist years ago said when we feel this way, it’s not that we are back to that exact same place but we are in a similar place, BUT much deeper. I hope that makes sense. Somewhat like a spiral staircase, we start on the top, then move deeper and deeper into the issue even if it’s on the same staircase. That was comforting because it reminded me that God is healing and His healing goes into our soul’s…deeper than we can ever know. But the one who created us, knows us, loves us, does indeed allow the “plucking” and the pain for a greater purpose. Often, it unfolds much more slowly than I prefer…I think you may understand that a lot. And, I’ve also contemplated your thoughts…how many things is the Lord shielding me from that I can’t even see. I pray you are comforted in knowing that you are not alone in your struggles with this…I so understand. It’s wonderful to hear from you…how can I pray for you in the days ahead?
      In His hands of grace and peace, Colleen

      • Missy Wang

        Thanks Colleen. Just pray for healing. For God’s purpose to be fulfilled for my life. To not live in defeat but victory even when my world might be spinning. To stay grounded in HIM. Thanks

        • Let’s start now…
          “Heavenly Father, Missy is your daughter, created and cherished by you. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that…that we are treasured by you when life is hard and there’s no end in sight. Lord, as you know, the enemy longs to ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ my friend, Missy. She’s been and continues to be faithful. She’s following you and trusting you with all she has. And, we know there is a purpose for every thing that happens in life which is hard to remember when life continually bombards us with challenges. Father, I ask that you help Missy live in the NOW…not the past or the future but the present. Lord, I ask you to show Missy where to find victory…where to placce her focus. I ask you to empower her with your Holy Spirit, to help her stay grounded when a tornado of things are flying around her. Father, will you breathe life and love into my friends heart. Will you lift her above the troubles of today and remind her there is victory in trusting you and depending on you. I ask you to fill her with hope, with your presence, with peace that surpasses all understanding….this very moment. And Lord, as we walk with you, remind us that your timing isn’t our timing yet you are so fully in control we have no need for worry. One day we will understand, all will be made right. Until then, Lord, I ask that you wrap your arms around Missy, around her circumstances, around her troubles and remind her you’ve got her. She can’t go anywhere without you being present. Please make that very real to her today. In Jesus name, Amen”.
          Now girlfirend, know I’m pullin’ for you and will do whatever I can to support you. Hang in there. You are the best! Colleen

  • Sand,
    This is so exciting. Reason being, when a person has endured so much trauma, it’s hard to develop confidence and a belief that you are valuable and have a purpose. For you to be considering further work and possibly a career change into counseling is incredibly fantastic!!! I’m so proud of you.
    My thoughts on this are varried…as to where you would find places for the needed education. I do know I interviewed Joe Padilla a couple years ago and his organization “Grace Alliance” does do church training for theraputic healing. His site and info is fantastic. I also know the “Association of Christian Counselors” is an international organization that does training courses. I would check out their site as well. Finally, there are a lot of churches that have ‘lay counselors’…those who are trained either by the church or professionally…who offer their time to the church and those in need of counseling. You may want to look at some organizations like New Life Live, Dallas Seminary, Rosemead School of Psychology, a program Kay Warren has started through Saddleback Church in Southern California, and some people I’ve interviewed (their sites). There is a lot of mental health awareness needed in the church and your pursuit of that would be fantastic.
    Please let me know if you do check it out or if I can help in any way. GO FOR IT, GIRL! Colleen

  • Sand,
    This is a perfect example of how we can never know what another person is going through which is why GRACE is vital to our lives. For you to hear about your sister, for her to share with you her pain is profound. So often in family’s where there is extensive abuse, the kids trying to survive never know what is going on with the other’s. Then, when the siblings hit adulthood, they often (if there is one who chooses growth) share what their experience was. In so doing, there is a new awareness that surfaces… like “I wasn’t the only one”, “This happened to you too?”, and so on. It’s a bonding of sorts that comes after enduring alone for so long. My prayer is that you will find mutual comfort as you connect with your sister. Sand, you have grown so much, you have so much to share and offer her in the way of hope, comfort, truth, peace, and more. God has been your everything and now, just imagine how you can be such an advocate of healing for her. We often cannot imagine what God is up to when awful things happen; after time has passed, He sometimes allows us to see there was a HUGE purpose in it. I believe you have a voice strong enough now that you could choose many ways to comfort others. I also would encourage you to stay away from the one sibling who is clearly uninterested in growth and being healthy. He is toxic to your life. Until someone chooses otherwise, we cannot allow their toxic ways to affect us. Praying for him is certainly encouraged but I would suggest that you keep a safe and healthy distance otherwise.
    How are you healing from the passing of your dad? How is the rest of the family doing? Often, life changing events in families will also cause other things to surface so I’m not surprised. I am thoroughly delighted that your sister has you…one who is so comforting, caring, loving, compassionate, and empathetic. Please know I will be in prayer for her as well as she pursues healing and perhaps a new relationship with you. Wonderful news my dear! Colleen