Although he wrote some of the most beautiful music in history, his life could never be described as beautiful. He knew tragedy as few of us have ever experienced.
By the time he was 10 years old, both his parents had died. He was raised begrudgingly by an older brother who resented having another mouth to feed.
Even as an adult his life was extraordinarily difficult.
His first wife died after 13 years of marriage and of the 20 children from two marriages, 10 died in infancy, one died in his 20s and one suffered severe mental illness.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he eventually went blind and later was paralysed because of a stroke.
Yet through all this he continued to write astonishing music. His music was full of great praise, thunderous thanksgiving and awe-inspiring adoration.
His footnotes on his musical manuscripts included little phases such as ‘‘Praise the Lord’’, ‘‘What a mighty God’’ and ‘‘Thank you Jesus’’.
Who was this victim of so much tragedy? It was Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the Western world’s greatest composer.
Could it be that because he knew the depths of tragedy he also knew the heights of faith and praise?
In the Bible we read of David writing amazingly uplifting songs of praise while he was being unjustly persecuted and pursued by King Saul.
Later on we read the Apostle Paul’s words encouraging us to ‘‘Rejoice in the Lord always’’ while he was in prison.
I believe the common denominator that allowed these three men to not only tolerate their circumstances, but to rejoice in them, was their confidence and faith that God is indeed sovereign — and because of that they had a vision of something wonderful beyond their immediate concerns.
The Bible tells us that without a vision men perish.
Bach, David and Paul all shared a common vision — and if we can catch even a glimpse of that, we find that our ability to cope through the most testing of times goes way beyond our expectations.