The last little while, I’ve been hearing lots of stories from lots of people with a common theme: people are being tested to cracking point in a particular area (or more usually, five areas at once); they pray, they up their mitzvah ante, they sincerely try to do everything everyone tells them to get their miracle, or salvation – and it doesn’t come.
Often, not only does the miraculous salvation not show up after all that spiritual effort, the problem can even get worse.
I’ve experienced this myself, and to say it can cause enormous challenges to your faith and emunat tzadikim is probably the understatement of the century. Thankfully, our true holy people are aware of this phenomenon, and they aren’t scared to address it.
On Shabbat Rav Arush gave a shiur talking about precisely this, where you pray and pray for the miracle to show up already, and still you’re stuck with the problem. So then, what does he suggest you do?
Simple: instead of praying for the problem to disappear, start praying instead to be happy with the problem.
Why? Again, simple: in our generation, we all have no end of trials and tribulations and soul corrections to get through, to clean off our 5,000 year-long slate. I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again, that we’ve all been here tens of times before – and stuffed it up repeatedly – and now, there’s no more second chances and we HAVE to get it right.
That’s means an awful lot of soul corrections to get through, in a very short amount of time. That means, practically, that you ping from one painful problem to another, and sometimes it seems like the suffering and hardship is never going to end.
Yes, of course we deserve it! We coasted the last 50 lifetimes, we ate traif, we sacrificed our children to Moloch, we chose to leave yiddishkeit to become ‘enlightened’ wannabe goyim 150 years ago – and know we have to clean all that stuff off our souls.
God sent us down here with a lot of work to do, and so much of it is painfully excruciating and confusing and difficult. And here’s the kicker: WE HAVE NO CHOICE. We have to go through it in order to get cleaned up.
That’s why sometimes, our prayers for instant salvation and mercy appear to go unanswered: if God lets up on us before we fix whatever is broken, spiritually, then what’s really been accomplished?
So then, why bother praying, if it’s not going to change anything. Great question! Here’s what I think: The point of our prayers is to build a relationship with God and to ask Him to help us accept all the craziness going on in lives, not to get God to do what we want.
This distinction is crucial.
Acceptance is key; knowing that God is doing everything for our good is crucial; saying ‘thank you’ is the key to getting through it as fast and painlessly as possible.
So if you’re going through tough times (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), remember the following things:
1) We’re all here to fix our souls, and that requires an awful lot of work
2) Regularly talking to God will help you hold on and survive when you’re reaching your fifth cracking point today
3) Saying ‘thank you’ is a shortcut to achieving the emuna you need to make it through in one piece
4) Accepting God’s will is what it’s all about.
God isn’t punishing us, although I know it can sometimes feel like that. He’s fixing us fundamentally, He’s doing it fast, and He wants us to know one thing: He loves us, and the more we try to focus on that and accept the temporary pain when He sends it, the faster we’ll get back to the good times.