Dear Rabbi,

I could really use some help.

I would like to better understand, how is it that we are promised love and redemption and all kinds of good things according to the prayers and the Torah, but terrible things happen to people I consider good and righteous?


You ask a great question; in fact The Question. What we see seems to conflict with what G‑d tells us will happen. How can this be?

Challenges and struggles push us to discover the deeper reality, and to actually live it. As such, it's a process which requires learning, experimentation, living and experience. And with time, we come to see things as they are.

On the one hand, tests and challenges require us to have faith, and trust that all G‑d does is for the best. He is entirely good, wants the best for us, and knows what we need better than we do.

At the same time, kabbalah teaches us that the discomforts we face in life are an even deeper level of connection with G‑d. Challenges are deeper and more powerful blessings. And because they are so deep, they have to come into our lives packaged as something negative.

The struggle we feel is the process of unwrapping the package. But it is also part of the gift, for in dealing with the situation we discover untapped reservoirs of ability and potential within ourselves, and deepen our relationship with G‑d.

Personal history is very important. When we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances, it helps to recall that in our past we have faced tests and struggles that seemed too much, impossible to overcome, unfair, and so on. We can now look back and see how that worked out.

Of course we don’t always see the reasoning and benefits immediately, but for the most part we do see how the challenges were in fact the proverbial blessing in disguise. And usually, part of the appreciation is the realization that we had to really work through that packaging. The blessing would not have been the same experience had it come to us openly and revealed right from the start.

Such contemplation also gives us the confidence and courage to be joyful and trusting. We learn to trust that not only the present moment will go well, but also future bumps on the horizon will be good. In fact, we realize, we are exactly where we need to be, and we are comforted that there is a plan, a path on which we are treading.

This is the process complete with its ups and downs, yet constantly on the rise in terms of growth and development and strength. The words are easy to say, yet far harder to live when in the throes of a test or challenge. As you go forward and take on the tough stuff you've been blessed with, it's very important to remember G‑d’s promise to us: we will never be given a test that we cannot handle (see Help Me Cope With My Challenges).

In other words, the test we face today is a compliment that we're on the level that we can handle such a situation; how many others around us have not been given that same test. And, we need to cling to the unshakable fact that we will not only overcome this issue, but even achieve a far greater spiritual and emotional level than we had before the test came to town.

See Spiritual Warrior from our selection on Judaism take on Struggle, Challenge & Adversity.