by Dr. Gary Yarbrough
Director, Pastoral Care
Shelby Baptist Medical Center
How does a person cope who has been afflicted with physical problems? The answer is as varied as the people who have them. At some point in our lives, most of us will know the answer to that question (if we don’t already know it!). Occasionally, I hear from patients who have a chronic illness respond as if they had the same script. They are encouraged and experience hope through their faith, family and friends.
There are some ‘overcomers’ of their physical predicament whose lives seem to be no less than a miracle. One of those ‘miracles’ came through the life and music of George Frederic Handel (1685-1759). He was born in Halle, Germany and eventually became a citizen of England. A God-gifted musician and composer, Handel offered this gift as a celebratory revelation to the world in the form of a four-part musical composition of the Old Testament and the Gospels. Someone once described Handel’s Messiah as a commentary on the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Several years ago, a friend of mine told me that he listened to the Messiah every year during the Christmas Season. I adopted the practice. (And, not just at Christmas!)
What made Handel an overcomer? During his lifetime, Handel had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage that paralyzed his right side. He had been driven to poverty more than once. A journal entry gives us a glimpse his despair: “Why did God permit my fellow men to bury me again? Why did He vouchsafe a renewal of my life if I may no longer be permitted to create?” In the spirit of the Psalmist and the Passion of the Christ, he wondered: “My God, why have You forsaken me?” Grandiose? I don’t think so. If anyone has experienced severe pain, loss or hopelessness for any reason, they can readily identify with a fellow traveler.
Later, with the financial assistance of a benefactor and text for a ‘sacred oratorio’ written by Charles Jennens, he composed the music for the Messiah, which was first performed in Dublin, Ireland (1742). Soon afterwards, Handel returned to England. King George II attended the opening performance of the Messiah in London. As the “Hallelujah Chorus” began, the King stood causing others to follow his lead. This tradition of standing during the “Hallelujah Chorus” (literally, “Praise be to God’) continues today.
I pray that this Christmas Season will find you as an ‘overcomer.’ And, even though you may not have the physical strength to stand, may your heart and spirit be filled with God’s healing love, peace, joy and strength as you hear words of praise to God for the abundant blessings revealed through the living Christ, the true Messiah: God’s gift to all!
“Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth….” Luke 2:14