Imagine Wittgenstein’s grief! Music was the center of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: As a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock!
Victory over adversity
Despite losing his arm, Wittgenstein did not give up. He went on to a successful career as a concert pianist. He commissioned various works that he could perform from composers such as Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Richard Strauss and, as I just mentioned, Maurice Ravel. Wittgenstein was a wonderful example of human capacity to overcome and triumph over adversity!
Disability or suffering need not eclipse or darken the human spirit. Adversity can darken a person’s life for a period of time, yet nature itself tells us that shadows will pass. Hurting people usually emerge from the shadows of suffering inexorably changed. The sufferer decides how they are changed by suffering. They can use suffering as a vehicle for internal growth or a stumbling block to it. To remain unchanged would be to render the darkness of suffering without purpose.
In a spiritual sense, our sufferings, sorrow and pain may seem to eclipse our ultimate source of light: Christ. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” At our deepest point of personal darkness we may lose sight of the light. At such times, we must cling desperately to God’s promise not to leave us nor abandon us (Hebrews 13.5-7)—regardless of appearances or feelings. We must remind ourselves that God’s promises are reliable, feelings are not.
Fertile ground for growth
Even though our bodies are wasting away, God is working an ultimate glory that will surpass all our suffering (see 2Corinthians 4.16-18). We walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7.) Shadows and darkness can provide fertile ground for faith to grow.
“At present we see indistinctly , as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially, then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13.12
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8.18, 24-25.)