“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” I answer with the knowing smile of a veteran mother. This is my response to almost everyone who walks into our house these days and comments on how quiet it is.

If I weren’t “fine,” I would somehow allow myself to be sad that our youngest two children have simultaneously “left the nest,” and I refuse to allow that. Maybe it’s because I was blessed to have children at what was considered an “advanced maternal age,” so I’m old to be an empty-nester. Maybe it’s because I know that my husband and I never “planned” our family, so I have no regrets about not having more children. And maybe it’s because our daughter Elkie was just here from California for a week with her family, helping me to remember how joyfully challenging it was to raise all those kids. (Just to give you an idea, the garage-door repairman came once; the plumber had to come twice.)

But it’s more than that. “Don’t worry, I’m fine”I’m also “fine” because I have a visceral response to being pitied. Of all the things I ever wanted in life, what I wanted most was not to be pitied. Everything else was a bonus. Whether this is true for everyone, I don’t know. But my early perceptions of how G‑d interfaces with the world was that He was “upstairs,” randomly singling people out for the good and the not-so-good. Pity the poor person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And every time something awful happened to someone else, my first thought was, “Dear G‑d, please don’t let anything like that happen to me.”

And that early imprint carries over, much as I understand G‑d very differently after 30 years of guidance from Torah and Chassidut (now I know it’s impossible to understand Him). But I still respond defensively to someone who feels sorry for me.

It’s a blessing when the nest empties . . . nothing is wrong here, I think to myself. Besides, let’s be honest, there is the relief that comes with finishing the job, any job, really. The challenges, the uncertainty, the outcome, for better or worse—they’re over. And in my case, if I’ve managed to score anything above pitiful, I’ve outrun my worst fear.

I know it’s not the holiest way to think about life, or G‑d, and I’m working on it. The good news is that I’ve learned a lot of wonderful things about Him throughout the journey. Here are three of them:

1. G‑d Is Real

I wish I could remember the first time I heard about a deity, but I don’t. I do remember the “Aha!” moment when I petitioned the all-powerful One in the sky: I was on my way home from summer camp, and I prayed that my mother bought brownies for me. I will never forget the magical feeling when I saw the neatly tied box on the kitchen counter. Then again, I also prayed for Him to punish a girl I didn’t like, and something terrible actually happened to her. I feel awful about that to this day. But, ultimately, the idea that He could answer my prayers like that was terrifying to me. I didn’t do much of anything for Him, so why was He listening to me and doing what I wanted? What was I supposed to be asking of Him?

Over the last 30 years, as I’ve learned Why was He listening to me and what I wanted?Chassidut, my perceptions of G‑d have evolved. Chassidic teachings elucidate the many concepts that describe how all of creation comes into existence and stays in existence. I try to understand these concepts (I’m never quite sure that I do), but this learning affects my soul, revealing what it inherently knows: G‑d is real. He may be noncorporeal, but He is alive and eternal and constantly invested in everything that happens in the world. So what am I supposed to ask of Him? For health, family and sustenance, of course, but only because when these are in order, I can focus more on changing my inner world to better feel His presence. The pursuit of this relationship with G‑d leads to simchah, true spiritual happiness.

2. G‑d Is Good

If G‑d is good, why is this world filled with so much pain and suffering, not to mention the unspeakable suffering of His beloved “chosen” people? It’s a question worth pondering. I’ve learned that this world is not the “true” world, but is instead a test, to see how we can show our love for G‑d when it’s so difficult to perceive Him, when His goodness is so often hidden from us. I’ve learned that everything in life is an opportunity to reveal His presence, to overcome or transform the apparent obstacles that conceal the truth of His existence. (This is supposed to be work, in case you were wondering.)

Fortunately, this is a cumulative test for all humanity, and our collective results have accrued. G‑d also assures us the test is only for a limited time, up to 6,000 years. And we’re closing in on that time, which means we’re almost ready to enter a new era. Which means that everything I do for Him, especially in the realm of learning Torah and doing mitzvahs, brings this era closer. The spiritual signposts are clear that this time, the time of Moshiach, is imminent.

I can’t imagine what the world will be like when G‑d’s energy is openly revealed to everyone’s physical eyes, but It can’t be soon enoughthat’s because I’ve never experienced it. But I do know it’s going to be good and it’s going to be soon. But it can’t be soon enough. I’ve learned that G‑d wants me to hasten this process however I can. I’m happy to try, knowing that my one small act of kindness could transform the world into a place that will be all good, all G‑d, all the time. (Oh, yes, and pity will be a thing of the past.)

3. G‑d Performs Miracles

In the meantime, chassidic wisdom encourages every Jew to live with bitachon, trust in G‑d. “Think good and it will be good” is the aphorism that encapsulates my mandate to deeply and sincerely trust in G‑d to provide me with the blessings of health, wealth and family. He may contravene nature, or I may experience miracles within nature, but when I truly trust that He will provide me open and revealed good, He does.

Of course, I’m supposed to work through natural channels to obtain these blessings, but I do that only because He wants me to. It has nothing to do with my “deserving” His goodness; it is simply a matter of my trusting in G‑d to provide it. As I see it, when I have bitachon, we’re both happy. G‑d gets what He wants most from me: my sincere trust that everything comes from Him. And I get to experience revealed good, absolutely sure of where it comes from.