We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” It’s tempting to think that doing something over and over again makes it better. But that’s not usually how it works. Ask a music teacher and they’ll tell you that, actually, practice makes permanent. In other words, if you practice a mistake over and over again, it won’t fix itself. It’ll become habit. If you repeat anything enough, whether it’s a mistake or a flawless execution, it becomes part of you - part of your practice, in the sense of what you do, and then part of your performance, in the sense of what you show other people.
A wise person once encouraged me to practice the parts of my music that sound the best more than the parts that sound the worst. (I don’t remember who that person was, but I’m sure they were wise.) By repeating the sections that already sound good, I teach myself how to find that good sound, so I can apply it to the not-so-good sounding places in my music. That way, I reinforce the habits that lead to my best sound and transfer them to the rest of my music. When I’m singing well and all the little muscles and cartilages and tissues are doing just what they were made to do, it’s a wonderful feeling - almost like flying. The more time I can spend in that place, the better prepared I’ll be for the challenging phrases and pages and songs.
Right now I’m coming out of one of the worst-feeling times of my life and into one of the happiest. For the last few years I’ve been keenly aware of my need for God’s grace and supernatural comfort. This led me deeper into the Word and prayer than when my life was going well. In a sense, I could tell that I needed to practice drawing near to God. I needed him to meet my needs directly because he wasn’t meeting them through my circumstances. Now, my circumstances have changed, and in a sense, my life is much more comfortable. It’s a great feeling, just like singing well. So do I leave the practice room, close the door behind me, and say, “Thanks, God! I guess I don’t need to practice now because I sound so good”?
Show me a musician who doesn’t need to practice and I’ll show you a musician who’s living a lie. Likewise, if we think that we need God less when our lives are easier, we are living a lie. That is the time to be more, not less, engaged in spiritual disciplines. God’s good providences won’t last forever and we will be called back into suffering. We must use the comfortable, easy times to keep reminding ourselves of the truths we clung to in the hard times. When he gives us good things, we owe him gratitude and a humble heart that acknowledges these gifts are from God and not our hard work. When we suffer, we cling to God’s faithfulness. When he takes the suffering away, we praise him and keep clinging to his faithfulness, not our shiny new circumstances.
Is it hard for you to trust God right now? Even when you can’t hold onto him, he is holding you. Always.