There is a story, versions of which can be found on several websites, about the world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. It illustrates a beautiful principle about God’s grace and power, how He can take whatever we have to offer Him in this life and make it into something beautiful. I’d like to recount it for you.

Itzhak Perlman was playing to a packed house one evening when, in the middle of a piece, that sound, dreaded by every violinist on stage, pierced the air—the sound of a violin string breaking!

The suspense was palpable as the orchestra stopped, waiting to see what Itzhak would do. But rather than calling for a different violin, he paused for a moment and signaled for the conductor to continue with the piece; as he took on what most would say was an impossible task: to play a complex piece of music on a violin with only three strings. He seemed to somehow be reworking the notes in his head as he played. When he finished, there was a stunned silence followed by a roar of applause and cheering from both the audience and the other musicians.

Itzhak Perlman had been no stranger to challenges in his life, having been struck down as a child with polio that had left him permanently in leg braces and on crutches. Amid the cheers, he struggled to his feet and motioned for the audience to quiet down.

Then he humbly said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

As I pondered this story, it reminded me of the gifts we have in this life and how they come in all forms and shapes and sizes. Some seem obvious: the beautiful voice, the highly skilled athlete, the brilliant musician, the computer genius, and so many others.

But how often do we stop to think about those other gifts that also fill the lives of so many—the blindness that develops other senses to such a degree that the person is able to accomplish even greater feats, or the weakness of body that with God’s love creates a compassion and wisdom that is able to turn the lives of countless others around and bring them new hope, direction, and joy?

Life is filled with blessings­—things we see as good—and setbacks—things we see as bad—but whatever we face, when we do it with God’s help, becomes an opportunity to use what we have in order to create something wonderful.

Itzhak’s ability to turn defeats into greater accomplishments didn’t just happen by chance. He chose to turn his own lifelong suffering into a tool for good that then became a passion to see every obstacle as an opportunity to go even further. His physical struggles produced a humility that helped to shield him from the corruption of pride, even in the areas where he was highly accomplished.

Too often people turn to self-victimization when faced with hardship, blaming everyone and everything else, even God. The better choice is to ask God for His wisdom, strength and grace to help us deal with the challenges in our lives, and thereby develop qualities that can enable us to shine brightly with His love right where we are.