A Design in Difficulties

By: Sherilyn Chen

During the weeks leading up to my final recital at the end of last year, I unexpectedly strained a ligament in my left hand. Hoping to perform all the pieces I had invested so much time and effort into, not being able to play with my left hand was the last thing I wanted. Disappointed, disillusioned, and frustrated, I started to wonder why.

I knew that God was Sovereign over all things, and that He had allowed even this seemingly insignificant yet discouraging injury for a valuable purpose. It was terribly difficult to figure out why, but I knew in my head that God promises His people a good plan. Yet, my heart was doubtful. There were days when I felt the pain in my hand and groaned in frustration, “Why isn’t it getting better quicker? What’s the point of this long recovery?” What I had initially thought would be a week’s recovery turned out to take more than a month.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

The intense persecution faced by the believers in Rome when Peter wrote this letter was incomparably greater than the small, God-ordained trial I had experienced. Yet, God still revealed to me that in every trial and distress we face, there is a design. A design to refine our faith to become more pure and genuine. A kind of faith that utterly depends on Him and not on other things for our deepest joy. God will paint the canvas of your life with both bright and dark colours. What He promises will be glorious piece of art when you entrust your soul into His faithful hands.

In the process of waiting for recovery, God refined my faith by revealing to me two things that I had begun to lose sight of.

God still revealed to me that in every trial and distress we face, there is a design. A design to refine our faith to become more pure and genuine. A kind of faith that utterly depends on Him and not on other things for our deepest joy.

1) There are more important concerns in life.

During the period of intense preparation for performances, all I had on the forefront of my mind was PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. Yes, I still cared about the salvation of others, about my friends, my family, and about God. Of course.

Or at least that was what I wanted to believe.

In all honesty, I didn’t care enough about any of those things enough to joyfully place them above the importance of practicing. Sadly, God had slowly been pushed into the periphery of my consciousness. He occupied little of my minutes, my hours and my days. My heart had begun to grow faint from His desires, and the desires of my flesh had begun to govern the decisions I made. I started to serve Him out of duty and became increasingly self-centered.

During the period of recovery, I had come to realise with the extra time I had, how precious it was to spend time with friends, with family, with God. I realised that I had forgotten some of the most precious things in life. Surely, practicing hard was important, but incomparable with how much I should be giving God the glory He deserves. Incomparable with the salvation of others who live day by day without the knowledge of the life-changing gospel. Incomparable with the way I should love and serve the friends and family God had given me.

What foolishness it was for me to use the very hands God had given me to glorify myself! To breathe every breath given by my Creator for the fulfilment of my own achievements and recognition.

2) I am not defined by what I do.

Not being able to play piano was confusing for me. It was the first time in my life that I was told I couldn’t play for at least 4 weeks. Suddenly, the activity that I spent most of my hours doing every day had been cut out. Day after day, when the usual 5-6 hours of practice sessions dissipated into non-existence, I started feeling increasingly worthless. I could no longer do something that I was good at. Something that I felt I could contribute to others in exchange for appreciation and recognition, and consequently, gave me worth.

One of the most memorable moments that God had used to teach me that my worth was not based on what I do was at NTE on the preaching Psalm 8.

In comparison to the endless expanse of the universe, we are infinitely insignificant. Yet, although humans are a little lower than angels, God chose them as jewels – crowned with “glory and honour” (v. 5). God appointed humanity to be glorious rulers over His loving creation under His righteous rule (v.6). For this reason, God gave us the abilities we have. The intelligence, the creativity, the resourcefulness.

We’re evidently wired to believe in the worldly notion that our abilities and contributions to society define our worth. Yet, God appoints humanity as rulers over His creation with glory and honour first, before then giving us the abilities we have. Humanity’s glory lies in our appointment.

And that’s when I started to grasp the magnificent truth of who I am before God.

My worth does not depend on my gifts, my abilities or my display of musicianship. My worth is based solely upon God’s crowning of humanity “with glory and honor”. My worth is not defined by what I can contribute to society. My worth therein lies in God’s appointment of me as a glorious ruler over His loving creation, made in His image for His glory.

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From a young age, Sherilyn attained many musical achievements and public appearance opportunities such as being selected to perform as a soloist at the Sydney Opera house at the age of 8. In addition to public performances, Sherilyn also won many gold and silver medals at prestigious Eisteddfods in Sydney and Warringah, and has most recently been awarded first prize in the Chopin Piano and 19th Century Music Sections of the Sydney Eisteddfod competition. She has received training from notable musicians such as Natalia Sheludiakova, Phillip Shovk, David Miller, and is currently studying under Dr Bernadette Harvey.

Sherilyn was awarded her AMusA at the age of 13, her LMusA at the age of 15, and is currently Honours student for the Bachelor of Music (Performance) program at the Sydney Conservatorium.

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