1: “One of the most vivid depictions of the frustration and fruitlessness of work is found in Peter Shaffer‘s play Amadeus,” Timothy Keller writes in Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.

The play features Antonio Salieri, a 19th-century composer with wealth and power. Antonio has written several extremely successful operas and has risen up to become the court composer for the Hapsburg emperor.

And yet, he senses the mediocrity of his work when he hears Mozart for the first time. 

“He realizes that in Mozart’s music he is hearing the beauty he has aspired to create his entire life,” Tim writes.

More damning: “At the same moment, he knows that he will never be capable of producing it himself.”

In spite of all his hard work, his dedication, and his desire, Antonio is forced to realize he will never be as good at composing music as he would like to be.

As a boy, he had boldly prayed: “Lord, make me a great composer! Let me celebrate your glory through music—and be celebrated myself! Make me famous through the world, dear God! Make me immortal! After I die let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote.”

Now confronted by Mozart’s genius, Antonio becomes enraged with God. 

“From now on we are enemies, You and I . . . Because You will not enter me, with all my need for you; because You scorn my attempts. . . . You… are unjust, unfair, unkind. . . .” 

Antonio becomes bitter. He does what he can to destroy Mozart, God’s instrument.

2: In terms of worldly acceptance, Antonio “was professionally accomplished, achieved high status, and enjoyed financial success,” Tim notes.

“Meanwhile, Mozart was a musical prodigy with abundant gifts, yet he suffered rejection and poverty.”

Each composer had success in some areas of their work. And both experienced deep frustration in other areas.

Tim writes there is a lesson here. A Biblical lesson: “Because of the nature of God’s creation, we need work for our happiness. And because of God’s intentions for our work—to contribute to the flourishing of the world—we have glimpses of what we could accomplish,” he writes. 

“But because of the fall of the human race, our work is also profoundly frustrating, never as fruitful as we want, and often a complete failure.”

3: Given this depressing conclusion, what should we do?

“Just because we cannot realize our highest aspirations in work does not mean we have chosen wrongly, or are not called to our profession,” Tim writes, “or that we should spend our life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration.” 

There is another option. Christians believe: “Through our hope in God’s story of redemption for the world he created, a deep consolation that enables us to work with all our being and never be ultimately discouraged by the frustrating present reality of this world, in which thorns grow up when we are trying to coax up other things. 

“We accept the fact that in this world our work will always fall short, just as we sinners always fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) because we know that our work in this life is not the final word.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection: Are there times when I find my work fruitless and frustrating? How do I push forward in these situations? 

Action: Discuss with my spouse, a colleague, or a friend.

What did you think of this post?

Write A Comment