With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! — Psalm 98.6
The beauty of an orchestra is formed not only through the dedication of its members, but the forging of its instruments. Ductility—the ability to be shaped without losing strength—is essential to shaping the trumpet and horn that praise God in Psalm 98. This image of formation is so striking, Augustine pauses in his reflections on the Psalms:
Ductile trumpets are of brass: they are drawn out by hammering. It is by hammering—by being beaten—you too shall be trumpets, drawn out unto the praise of God. You improve when in tribulation: tribulation is hammering, improvement is the being drawn out.
Job was a ductile trumpet, when suddenly assailed by the heaviest losses, and the death of his sons, become like a ductile trumpet by the beating of so heavy tribulation. He sounded like this: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
This is one of the most difficult teachings of Christianity: you are not yet perfect and must be shaped. This shaping is the foundation of how we thrive. It is not in spite of pain, but because of it, that we discover the strength, beauty, and joy we were created to display. Augustine concludes:
This ductile trumpet is still under the hammer. We have heard how he was drawn out; let us hear how Job sounded: “What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” O courageous, O sweet sound! Whom will that sound not awake from sleep? Whom will confidence in God not awake—to march to battle fearlessly against the devil; not to struggle with his own strength, but His who proves him.
See how even the apostle Paul was beaten with this very hammer: “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me.” He is under the hammer. Listen to how he speaks of it: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
His Maker wished to make this trumpet perfect; I cannot do so unless I draw it out. In weakness is strength made perfect. Hear now the ductile trumpet itself sounding as it should: “When I am weak, then am I strong.”