A woman suffering from ovarian cancer wrote me after reading an earlier article I wrote for this publication. In her letter she says, "...sometimes I think I'm acting more positive than I feel because of all the social pressure I experience to 'think positive'. Sometimes people sound like they're saying, 'If you just clap real hard and believe, Tinker Bell will live. And you will be cured of cancer.' Meaning that if I'm not disease free, I'm 'clinging on to negativity.'"

When discussing my own health condition with people, I have had similar experiences. Should I express anything but my most positive self — should I expose the darker side of my thoughts and fears — I often feel as if I have disclosed an unseemly lack of bitachon (trust in G‑d) that the listener is quickly trying to rectify with statements such as "think good", "stay strong", or "I'm sure we'll be hearing good news from you soon."

But the larger question is whether there really is a contradiction between expressing the full gamut of positive and negative emotions, and the belief that only good thoughts produce good results (expressed by the Chassidic adage, "Think good and it will be good")

Do any of us possess such simplicity and sincerity, such innocence and whole-heartedness, such impeccability in our bitachon as to eliminate any vestige of doubt or fear? And if we do not, how do we apply the adage "Think good and it will be good" to our flawed lives and selves? How does it apply to us who, in spite of our imperfection, seek such faith to combat illness and other hardship?

To one whose faith and trust is truly without blemish, there would, I imagine, be no negativity in thought nor emotion. He or she would think good and it would simply be good. The life of this person would, it seems to me, be filled with such wholehearted acceptance and love that there would be no possibility for a bad outcome. Or, perhaps he or she would perceive every outcome as good. Or, perhaps people like this are not even concerned with outcomes, so filled are they with the awareness of G‑d's perfection in each moment.

But for the rest of us, such cracks in faith and trust allow seepage of the darkest kind, especially in times of serious illness, loss and danger. Most commonly we experience fear or grief, expressed through sadness, anger, blame or resentment.

For folks like me battling a life-threatening disease, there will be times when we are mad, sad, scared, and downright blue. Are we incapable then or void of bitachon?

I propose that rather than seeing our lives linearly, in which these "blue-times" are rifts in the otherwise seamless continuity of our trust, we see our lives more spherically, made up of a full spectrum of simultaneously existing, fluctuating emotions and thoughts that take their place in the wholeness of who we are. In such a view, dwelling on or giving primacy to our fears would certainly throw our system out of whack; yet, acknowledging them appropriately would strengthen the trust and bitachon that holds them in balance. In this model, fear becomes the catalyst to courage, weakness the other side of endurance, anxiety the shadow of faith and patience.

I believe that, ironically, such a view strengthens the adage, "Think good and it will be good." For now, when we see fear or anxiety in our friend (or ourselves), we no longer see negativity; rather we recognize the catalyst to strengthen his (and our) faith and trust. When we acknowledge fear in our friend, we affirm, as well, its opposite — the Rock that eternally supports us when life seems so fragile and unstable. When we free, rather than inhibit, our friend to express this side of his/her emotional reality, we create an opportunity to support our friend as he travels through tunnels of darkness, eventually perceiving the glimmer of light that leads ultimately to the faith and trust he or she seeks. Conversely, when we deny our friend (or our ourselves) this freedom, we inhibit this discovery; we retard the development or expression of the very bitachon our friend so desperately needs.

My friends like it when they see me feeling strong and energetic in spite of the chemotherapy I endure. Little do they know that such strength and energy come precisely from those days when I stop fighting against the extreme weakness I sometimes feel and allow myself to collapse — without resistance — to wallow in my bed, covers pulled over my head, feeling my aloneness, my emptiness and fear. When I do this, I always, always emerge renewed and refreshed. My renewed, reinforced faith and trust comes not from denying these feelings, but precisely by allowing them.

In my aloneness I invite G‑d's companionship, my emptiness becomes a space for Him to fill. When my fear and trembling cease, they are replaced by a renewed sense of trust and security. By exploring, enduring, and surviving these emotional nether worlds I know once again that their power and reality are illusory, temporary and insubstantial. They exist only to bring me closer to G‑d.

If these fears are illusory, why do they continually return? Because they are so deeply ingrained in our humanity as part of our "nature" that if... if... they are ever to be overcome, it will be the result of a lifetime of work — a lifetime of experience with no escape from the hardships and grief, the fear and anxiety that ultimately spur us closer to the truth. The deeper our fears, the deeper the level of true bitachon to which they can lead us.

Thus, in either case — whether we already possess bitachon or are flawed seekers of G‑d's protection in time of danger — we are forced once again to return to the concepts of whole-heartedness, purity, sincerity, and impeccability. If we are not tzaddikim who possess the faith and trust in G‑d that precludes all worry and fear, than let us at least possess enough faith and trust in G‑d to allow these feelings. Let us acknowledge them in ourselves and our friends not as demonic obstacles but as pathways to bitachon, to trust and faith in G‑d.

And before we cast platitudes of faith in the face of those who suffer, and risk plunging daggers in their already wounded hearts, let us reflect on the mundane fears and anxieties that daily invade our own lives. Our response to a flat tire on the way to that long awaited business meeting may be the best measure of how deep our trust in G‑d really is. If you trust that G‑d will lead you to health and long life but become angry at your wife or husband because he or she doesnt exhibit the perfection you expect, do you really have full trust that G‑d determines the life and fate of all His creations, including the fate of someone who is gravely ill and in danger?

Two things may result from this honest self assessment. First, we may be become loving catalysts rather than self-righteous obstacles to the growth of our friends. Second, we may learn how to transform not only our fears into faith, but our platitudes into the truths that were once their mothers.