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.

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?


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?


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.

(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.

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