It is impossible to know from external appearances what kinds of interior burdens people carry with them throughout life. In fact, if we knew the inside story of most people’s lives, we would gain a deep reverence for them and a respect for their perseverance through the difficulties that only they have experienced and that only they know.

One such example is of the famous German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and his younger brother Albert, whose inner burdens were hidden to all but a few during their lifetimes. It is a story of how one person’s suffering can transform another and even have an extraordinary effect on the world.

Albrecht and his brother Albert came from a middle class family of eighteen children. Both boys wanted to be artists, but their parents could not afford to send the pair of them to the academy (art school) as they desired. In fact, it was unlikely that they could even afford to send one of the boys to a school of that type.

One night the two brothers made a pact. They would toss a coin, and the loser of the coin toss would go to work in the coal mines near their home in order to support his brother during his years of study.

Four years after that, they would reverse roles: the brother who went to school would then be able to work and make money and would support the other brother as the latter studied and pursued his dreams of becoming an artist.

As providence would have it, Albrecht won the coin toss and spent four years in the academy learning and applying his trade. He proved to be something of a prodigy at drawing, painting, and woodcutting, even surpassing his teachers in artistic ability.

When four years passed and it came time to send Albrecht’s younger brother to school, poor Albert broke down sobbing. He showed his brother his working hands that had been damaged during the previous four years.

He told Albrecht that every bone in his hands had been broken at least once by the hard labor in the coal mines. His hands were rough, disfigured, and arthritic. It was now impossible for him to do the fine and delicate work of an artist.

It is said that Albrecht was so moved by his brother’s sacrifice that he asked Albert to pose in prayer for him. He then drew the famous ink and pencil sketch of the “Praying Hands” as a model for an altarpiece he had been commissioned to create for a patron.

The simple drawing, which contains in itself the silent story of brotherly love, sacrifice, and generosity, has become a favorite of Christians for generations and is still seen today hanging on the walls of many Christian homes as a reminder of our need to pray.

It is also a reminder that the greatest sacrifices are often the most hidden – and the most pleasing in the eyes of God. Albert’s four years of sacrifice for his older brother had an enormous spiritual effect: he gave the world the gift of one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

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Soul Work

It takes a truly selfless spirit to make silent sacrifices for others, especially for those who will never recognize our generous gift or thank us for the personal cost of our sacrifice.

For these instances the Lord has provided a beatitude: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). The Lord promises an inheritance to those who selflessly give to others, not immediate wealth!

Choose someone today to receive your gift of time, talent, treasure, or just the gift of your presence. Ask for nothing in return. Seek no thanks or emotional recompense. Give for the sake of giving.


Source: Learn Religions.