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"We must translate pain into action, and tears into growth" — The Rebbe

An artist, after suffering from a personal tragedy, wrote to the Rebbe about his depression and despair. The Rebbe wrote back: "The genius of the artist is his ability to detach himself from the external qualities of the object he is portraying, to look deeply into the object and see its essence. He must then be able to express that essence so that whoever views the painting sees an essence that he, the viewer, had never noticed in the object itself.

The same applies to each individual; his inner essence is his G‑dliness. One must take great care so that the external trappings of his life should not obscure his essence. The tragedies of life must be seen for what they really are: part of the divine system of challenge and endeavor, which enables us to achieve the highest levels of happiness and goodness.

The very fact that we are naturally upset by suffering testifies to our belief in a fair and righteous G‑d.

What is the purpose of pain?
Why is there so much suffering in the world? How do we deal with emotional, spiritual, and psychological pain? Why does G‑d sometimes allow righteous people to suffer such extreme pain?

These questions pose a paradox. The very fact that we are naturally upset by suffering testifies to our belief in a fair and righteous G‑d, whom we expect to rule the world justly. And yet, we see that pain and suffering cause many people to question the very existence of G‑d, or at least His effectiveness.

Even in the deepest moments of despair, we must realize that our absolute faith is what gives us the capacity to understand and deal with our pain. With G‑d at the helm, we can accept pain as part of the challenge of life; it motivates us to seek answers, to explore our relationship with G‑d, and to grow from the experience.

Are there any benefits to pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering are opportunities to challenge the way we look at life. When things are going well, we tend to take life for granted, but trauma brings us to the edges of life, allowing us to view it from a new, revealing angle.

So the real question we must ask is not just why we sometimes feel such acute pain, but what we are meant to learn from it.

Trust in G‑d is our way of turning pain around...

When you see beyond a one-dimensional life, when you realize that you are comprised of not just a body but a body and a soul, you recognize that there is a far higher purpose to your life, and a far deeper meaning to your pain.

The only true explanation for pain and suffering is that the world itself is intrinsically good and that pain and suffering are somehow part of the larger good. This is not to suggest that pain itself is good, nor that we should peacefully accept it. In fact, we must express our feelings of pain to the fullest, and do everything in our power to alleviate suffering in ourselves and in others.

It is your duty to discover how pain may be a blessing in disguise and to overcome the pain and restore harmony to your body and soul. Consider the inevitable frustration that precedes any creative growth, or the intense pain that a woman feels while giving birth. No matter how great such pain may be, it is ultimately justified by the goodness it produces.

How can we relieve our pain?
It is important that you see pain as a test that examines how consumed you are with material comfort as opposed to spiritual growth.

Instead of being broken by pain, you must demonstrate your complete trust in G‑d by continuing your life with an intense commitment to goodness, thereby challenging G‑d to live up to His promises of being righteous and fair. Trust in G‑d is our way of turning pain around. It proves to G‑d that, although we may not fully understand our pain, we recognize it as part of a greater good. And despite our setbacks, despite our confusion, despite our pain, we remain absolutely confident that goodness will prevail.

Freeing yourself from pain can only come about through movement — moving away and distracting yourself from the painful situation, moving away from the cause that produced such painful symptoms. This movement may be as simple as finding a new friend, reading a new book, getting involved in a project or taking a class — anything to alter your solitary, limited perspective on yourself and the world.

For some, starting the climb out of pain requires a strong push, or even hitting rock bottom. This is where true friends play a vital role. When someone you love and care for is in pain, you must be there for him, no matter what he needs. He may say he wants to be alone, that he wants to work through his problems, but you must recognize that this will not work, that the answer is to broaden his perspective, not further limit it. Find a way to spend time with him, to talk with him, to share your thoughts with each other. Most important, love him and help him help himself.

Selected readings from Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe (William Morrow, 1995), authored by Simon Jacobson based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory. Reprinted with permission from the Meaningful life Learning Center
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Richard Simmons Rhode Island March 15, 2015

"My pain is my pain, your pain is your pain" Someone once said: "My pain is my pain, your pain is your pain": I detach myself from physical to spiritual. Thank you for the teaching. Perseverance, end result. Speaking for myself, personally. I tell myself this is a cycle we must (all) complete.
Richard Reply

Anonymous March 15, 2015

Thank you! Woke up this morning to find this article and it answered some doubts I had. I am very thankful to the Rebbe, in righteous memory. Reply

confused March 13, 2015

alone How does this fit in with what the Rambam says in Madda about a person who wants to be alone? I've never asked anyone about how we practically deal with this. Reply

Anonymous March 13, 2015

Dear Rabbi Jacobson, Has there been any consideration by the Talmudic Sages or more recent Gaonim / Kabbalists, or Chabad Rebbes on G-d's reason for and the benefit of Altzheimer's disease or any other dementia to a Person? Whatever body of knowledge the person already aquired, the person will forget. Therefore the ability to execute mitzvot and ability of having a meanigful prayer will be gradually diminished to a bare minimum. Further, capacity to learn Torah will be gradually diminished as well. Therefore a living and otherwise able person will be incapacitated of all three tenets of Judaism...! Thank you for your consideration. Reply

Jessy jee Africa March 10, 2015

Pain: I am greatful for this article on pain.Remain blessed. Reply

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