How do you deal with disappointment, struggle, failure, poor health, or all of the above? When you got to a place where you felt you were at the end of your rope, what did you do?
When you take a look at the life of composer George Frederick Handel, you find a successful person who often found himself in a rut that he desperately needed to get out of.
Handel was a musical prodigy. Even though his father wanted him to study law, he gravitated toward music as a child. By age seventeen, he held the post of church organist at his hometown cathedral in Halle, Germany. A year later he became a violinist and harpsichordist at the Kaiser’s Opera House in Hamburg. By twenty-one, he was a keyboard virtuoso. When he turned to composing, he soon excelled, received accolades, and was appointed Kapellmeister conductor to the elector of Hanover (later King George 1 of England). When he moved to England, his fame increased. By the time he was forty, he was famous around the world.
Yet despite his fame and talent, he faced considerable adversity. The competition with rival composers in England was fierce and unrelenting. Audiences grew fickle and sometimes did not show up for his performances. He was frequently the victim of the changing political atmosphere. He often found himself almost out of money and facing bankruptcy. The pain of rejection and failure was difficult to face and bear, especially in light of his remarkable success.
Handel’s problems were compounded by failing health. He suffered a stroke or seizure, which left his right arm limp and ultimately caused him to lose the use of four fingers on his right hand. He later recovered, but still battled discouragement. In 1741, Handel determined that it was time to retire, even though he was only 56. He was discouraged, despondent, miserable, and deep in debt. He worried that he would find himself in jail for his financial troubles. On April 8, he gave what he believed was his farewell concert. Disappointed and full of self-pity, he gave up.
But in August of 1741, something incredible happened. A wealthy friend named Charles Jennings visited Handel and gave him a libretto (i.e., the text of a work for the theater) based on the life of Jesus Christ. The concept intrigued Handel and stirred him to action. He began writing. And writing. And writing. Immediately the floodgates of inspiration were opened to Handel. His cycle of despair and inactivity was shattered. For twenty-one straight days, George Frederick Handel wrote almost non-stop. Then he spent another two days creating the orchestrations. In twenty-three days, Handel has single handedly completed a two hundred sixty page manuscript. He called it MESSIAH.
Today, Handel’s Messiah is considered a masterpiece and the crowning achievement of the composer’s work. In fact, Sir Newman Flower, one of Handel’s biographers, later said that, “Considering the immensity of the writing of The Messiah, and the short time involved, it will remain, perhaps, the greatest feat in the whole history of music composition.”
The apostle Paul said God gives encouragement and endurance in Romans 15:5. Jennings helped Handel gain a new outlook on life. Walk wisely. You never know how your words and actions may spur someone to pick themselves up and face the challenges of their life. When it comes to getting over the emotional hurts of failure, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your personal history is. The only thing that matters is that you face your fear and get moving.
Love is a verb,