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When Things Don’t Work Out, No Matter How Hard You Try

When Things Don’t Work Out, No Matter How Hard You Try

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My friend called the other day. She’s looking for work. She’s had a few different jobs lately, and each one, for different reasons, just didn’t work out. She sobbed to me, “I don’t understand! I’m trying so hard. I’m praying so hard. Why can’t I just find something?”

Another woman, who desperately wants to have children, criedWhat does He want from us? to me, “We’re doing everything, and it’s not happening. I’m also working on myself. I’m praying. I’m trying to grow from this challenge, but what more can I do? What does G‑d want from me?”

What does He want from us? Why isn’t (fill in the blank) working? Why isn’t (fill in the blank) happening?

This is how I try to understand it.

My baby is almost a year old now. How fast this first year went! As a newborn, he couldn’t really do much. When I felt he was ready, I put him on his belly to build those neck and shoulder muscles. He cried in protest. I insisted. One minute here, one minute there. A few weeks passed; his muscles and limbs grew stronger. All of a sudden, he was pushing himself up with his arms, and he flashed me a smile, delighting in his accomplishments. Then one day, when I put him on his belly, he rolled onto his back. His arms swung, and he kicked his legs in protest. He was stuck! In the beginning, I quickly rolled him back to where he was more comfortable. Then I started waiting 30 seconds before going to him, then a full minute. In one of those moments of waiting, he figured out how to roll the other way.

The next step was sitting. I propped him up against pillows so that if he should fall, the impact would be cushioned. More months passed, and he started crawling. There was adventure and exploration as he zoomed this way and that. And now, at 11 months, what is my baby doing? He pulls himself up and he stands, holding onto something. And then what? He looks at me and shrieks! He’s stuck! He doesn’t know how to get down, and he’s not strong enough yet to take a step forward. “You are amazing!” I cheer him on. He’s shrieking because he’s frustrated and thinks he’s stuck. I’m excited because I see how far he’s come. He couldn’t even roll over in the beginning, and now he’s standing on his own two feet. I also know that being “stuck” standing up is part of the process to build those chubby legs of his and give him the strength to walk forward soon, G‑d willing.


Before Moses passed away, he gave a speech to the nation, who would be continuing into the Land of Israel without him. He told them: “Be strong and courageous (imtzu). Neither fear nor be dismayed of them, for the L‑rd your G‑d is the One who goes with you. He will neither fail you, nor forsake you.” He then turned to Joshua, who was chosen to lead the people. “Be strong and courageous (ematz)! For you shall come with this people to the land which the L‑rd swore to their forefathers to give them.”1 The Hebrew word for “courageous” also means “determined” or “making an intense effort,” as we see in the book of Ruth, when Naomi saw that “she (Ruth) was determined (mit’ametzet) to go.”2

What happened in the times of Joshua? The Nation of Israel entered into the Land of Israel after 40 years of wandering around, seemingly “stuck” in the desert. But were their trials over, now that they could enter the land? No, they needed time, they needed strength, they needed determination and effort to conquer the land. They needed the reminder that G‑d wouldWe feel stuck and frustrated neither fail them nor forsake them.

When the verse speaks of Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother, what does it say? She was determined, she exerted great effort to go to Israel and become a Jew. With this effort and determination, she merited to become the progenitor of Moshiach.

And so it is with us.

We feel stuck and frustrated. Why isn’t G‑d answering us? We, as a nation, feel stuck. “Come on,” we plead. “It’s been 2,000 years of exile already! How much longer? How many more trials and tests? What else do You want from us?” We feel like we don’t know how to move forward. We don’t even know how to get down.

“But look at you!” G‑d tells us. “You’ve come so far! You feel like you want to give up? But you’re so close! With a little more strength, a little more courage, a little more effort, you’ll get there. The Redemption will come.”

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Manuel Florida August 9, 2016

Thanks Elena! I'm going through a similar situation. I'm a 35 year old with a wife and two children, working with the federal government and serving in the reserve force. I have been working so hard to achieve my dream of becoming an electrical engineer (electronics field) and be able to design new things for the world, but no matter what I do, I encounter many obstacles. It is frustrating. I hate giving up, but at the same time I feel like I don't have energy left to continue. This article is inspiring and encouraging. Thank you! Reply

Adonai's Anointed Pittsburgh August 6, 2016

PRICELESS! toda raba. Reply

Molly TX August 2, 2016

B"H I've been learning more about what it means to live an emuna based lifestyle from the sweet folks at Breslev, and with that, some advice comes to mind.

When considering the fact that HaShem controls every single detail in our lives, and as well considering how every single thing He does is for our ultimate benefit, (even the things that feel bad or perhaps not in line with our individual will) it becomes much easier to follow this tidbit of advice.

The advice is to thank and praise HaShem wholeheartedly, with as much sincerity as one can muster up, for the very thing that ails you at the moment, whether it be a lack of a steady job, lack of a soulmate, or lack of our Beit HaMikdash (may it be rebuilt speedily in our days!)

To understand when things go against our individual will--that it is indeed for a specific reason and indeed in our very best interest--makes it much, much easier to sing praises to HaShem even in the most dreary of circumstances.

Aside from tzedakah, nothing invokes divine compassion and abundance like praising HaShem for even the most confusing of predicaments!

What's more, one could easily pray to HaShem for enlightenment, that He reveal to you the hidden good in certain situations, or even to reveal which un-atoned sins may need to be rectified through teshuva. Before you know it, a delightful (or otherwise) thought will pop into your head, and you'll say to yourself "AHA! That's what I've done! (or there is the hidden good!) Thank You thank You!"

So, as an aside, as ready as we may feel on an individual level for the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt, the world as a whole is certainly not ready. In the past, it was not appropriate (nor was it safe) for Jews to spread faith in HaShem to the nations. But now, more than ever in human history, the nations of the world are starving for Truth, and the Jews have always quietly held the key.

Chabad.org is doing a spectacular job of educating the masses, and I don't think there is any harm at all now to encourage folks on an individual level to gently nudge our curious neighbors in the right direction. The redemption will happen on an individual basis, and we each individually have the responsibility to be a part of the redemption of the world!

How dramatic it all sounds! But how true it is, nonetheless.

Baruch HaShem, and thanks for taking the time to read my comment(: Reply

Anonymous south africa August 2, 2016

ABBA Father please help me to be strong and courages (determined)? G-d You know how far i've come, how desperate i am for You to help me and show me the way, i believe You for miracles - with You ANYTHING is possible, because You are Elohim YHVH. please hear us Father, all the other women who also read these words because they are stuck and desperate to hear from You, give them all courage to stand firm in knowing that You are a good and faithful Father and that You will answer in Your perfect timing Reply

Precious United Kingdom August 2, 2016

OH MY GOODNESS, I could write a book on your article but I'd just like to say thank you. I read an article prior to this one that really touched my heart, but this onw certainly sweeps me off my feet.
I am a Christian but I feel so challenged - I stayed at home for about 8years looking after my kids and that meant my entire 30s, then I decided to return to work and eventually (after building up much confidence, thanks to my hubby)got a short contract. However, after that one ended, I have not been able to get another one and I am praying, crying, begging, etc. I sometimes feel like am not sure if am on the right path or maybe there is more to what's going on, I have to deliberately work on my confidence daily or else I am concerned it might wane.
My husband must not hear me talk like this but I sometimes feel so frustrated - so thank you so much for this article. I will continue to re-read it.
In my exciting times, I seem to know that I should keep trying, but sometimes I feel frustratd Reply

s UK August 2, 2016

Thank you Like the tapestry, we do not see the bigger picture. It is hard when we are striving for something and maybe now is simply not the time, but accepting that we need to leave things with HaShem and wait is often frustrating.

Learning to accept HaShems will before our own is not a simple process.

Thank you for this insightful article Reply

Julia IL June 28, 2016

I am a catholic woman of Indian origin who came across your article by chance. I found your words and insight to be very comforting as I go through my current situation.
Thank you Reply

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