Dear Rabbi,

I am really struggling with a lot of things in life. Work, dating, you know the drill. Sometimes I get depressed about my shortcomings. They say everyone has something they’re good at, but I’m still trying to figure out what mine is. It’s tough when you don't view yourself in a very positive light. Everyone I know is super-successful, and I still can’t get anything off the ground. It seems like you are born with certain abilities, and those abilities strongly dictate where you will end up in life. I sometimes think I am just a big failure. Sorry for the rant, but I just wanted to get it off my chest . . . I would love to hear your response.


You make me think of a story. A rabbi was once called to a hospital to see a Jewish teenager who was suicidal. Feeling that he was a good-for-nothing who could not get anything right, the boy had attempted to take his own life. But even his suicide attempt failed. Seeing that he was Jewish, the hospital staff called the rabbi to come and try to lift the boy’s dejected spirits.

The rabbi arrived at the hospital not knowing what to expect. He found the boy lying in bed watching TV, a picture of utter misery, black clouds of despair hanging over his head. The boy hardly looked up at the rabbi, and before he could even say hello, the boy said, “If you are here to tell me what the priest just told me, you can leave now.”

Slightly taken aback, the rabbi asked, “What did the priest say?”

“He told me that G‑d loves me. That is a load of garbage. Why would G‑d love me?”

It was a good point. This kid could see nothing about himself that was worthy of love. He had achieved nothing in his life; he had no redeeming features, nothing that was beautiful or respectable or lovable. So why would G‑d love him?

The rabbi needed to touch this boy without patronizing him. He had to say something real. But what do you say to someone who sees himself as worthless?

“You may be right,” said the rabbi. “Maybe G‑d doesn’t love you.”

This got the boy’s attention. He wasn’t expecting that from a rabbi.

“Maybe G‑d doesn’t love you. But one thing’s for sure. He needs you.”

This surprised the boy. He hadn’t heard that before.

The very fact that you were born means that G‑d needs you. He had plenty of people before you, but He added you to the world’s population because there is something you can do that no one else can. And if you haven’t done it yet, that makes it even more crucial that you continue to live, so that you are able to fulfill your mission and give your unique gift to the world.

If I can look at all my achievements and be proud, I can believe G‑d loves me. But what if I haven’t achieved anything? What if I don’t have any accomplishments under my belt to be proud of?

Well, stop looking at yourself and look around you. Stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking of others. You are here because G‑d needs you—He needs you to do something.

My friend, you and I know that happiness does not come from earning a big salary. Happiness comes from serving others, from living life with meaning. I am convinced that all you need to do is focus outward, not inward. Don’t think about what you need, but what you are needed for. And in finding what you can do for others, you will find yourself.

See The Life I Have, from our selection on the Value of Life.