Recently, my pastor recommended a book by John Piper to me called, The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd. I enjoyed reading about all three of them, but especially about William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"), probably because I had heard a bit of his story before and he was a creative type. You may have heard many of his beautiful hymns... But few people know of the pain and struggle this man went through to learn the things he did in order to write such beautiful works. This was a man who suffered so much mental pain, thought God had shut him out up until the day he died, and attempted suicide several times throughout his life. It is even said that on his deathbed, as he proclaimed in joy, he cried out, "Look! I am not shut out of heaven afterall!" So this poor guy - a hymn writer - obviously felt like God had rejected him this whole time.
What does this guy's life say about the transformed life? Well, it's multi-dimensional. But what jumps out to me right now is that God uses even the lowly things in a transformed life. He used Cowper even in his depressed mental state. Those who are often marginalized in our society, who suffer from mental illness, or severe doubt, etc, are not out of the reach of God's grace. One can have strong faith and still be in great spiritual anguish. And even through our struggles, God speaks. Some of Cowper's darkest days were the days he wrote hymns.
It's interesting to add, when those days of deep contemplation took it's toll on him to the point of near death, Cowper's friends would sometimes try to distract him by getting him to simply garden or work on a farm to sustain his mental and physical health. I think Cowper really saw the value of this in his life. He once wrote,
"Absence of occupation is not rest;
A mind quite vacant is a mind distressed."
There is obviously great value in contemplation. Without it, we wouldn't have the hymns Cowper wrote, but God knows as long as he wants us on this earth, the body can only withstand so much of that and there is also great value in mundane distractions such as work or chores, etc. I think it's God's way of getting us back to sanity (which is why I've got a not-so-deep post about adorable shabbyblog buttons below!)
William Cowper's life story actually greatly influenced my vision for All Things New Studio. I hope to inspire others who may need an artistic outlet for their contemplations, yet to also fulfill the need for the practical and even the mundane. Thank you, William Cowper.