My friend called the other day. She’s looking for work. She’s had a few different jobs lately, and each one, for different reasons, just didn’t work out. She sobbed to me, “I don’t understand! I’m trying so hard. I’m praying so hard. Why can’t I just find something?”

Another woman, who desperately wants to have children, criedWhat does He want from us? to me, “We’re doing everything, and it’s not happening. I’m also working on myself. I’m praying. I’m trying to grow from this challenge, but what more can I do? What does G‑d want from me?”

What does He want from us? Why isn’t (fill in the blank) working? Why isn’t (fill in the blank) happening?

This is how I try to understand it.

My baby is almost a year old now. How fast this first year went! As a newborn, he couldn’t really do much. When I felt he was ready, I put him on his belly to build those neck and shoulder muscles. He cried in protest. I insisted. One minute here, one minute there. A few weeks passed; his muscles and limbs grew stronger. All of a sudden, he was pushing himself up with his arms, and he flashed me a smile, delighting in his accomplishments. Then one day, when I put him on his belly, he rolled onto his back. His arms swung, and he kicked his legs in protest. He was stuck! In the beginning, I quickly rolled him back to where he was more comfortable. Then I started waiting 30 seconds before going to him, then a full minute. In one of those moments of waiting, he figured out how to roll the other way.

The next step was sitting. I propped him up against pillows so that if he should fall, the impact would be cushioned. More months passed, and he started crawling. There was adventure and exploration as he zoomed this way and that. And now, at 11 months, what is my baby doing? He pulls himself up and he stands, holding onto something. And then what? He looks at me and shrieks! He’s stuck! He doesn’t know how to get down, and he’s not strong enough yet to take a step forward. “You are amazing!” I cheer him on. He’s shrieking because he’s frustrated and thinks he’s stuck. I’m excited because I see how far he’s come. He couldn’t even roll over in the beginning, and now he’s standing on his own two feet. I also know that being “stuck” standing up is part of the process to build those chubby legs of his and give him the strength to walk forward soon, G‑d willing.

Before Moses passed away, he gave a speech to the nation, who would be continuing into the Land of Israel without him. He told them: “Be strong and courageous (imtzu). Neither fear nor be dismayed of them, for the L‑rd your G‑d is the One who goes with you. He will neither fail you, nor forsake you.” He then turned to Joshua, who was chosen to lead the people. “Be strong and courageous (ematz)! For you shall come with this people to the land which the L‑rd swore to their forefathers to give them.”1 The Hebrew word for “courageous” also means “determined” or “making an intense effort,” as we see in the book of Ruth, when Naomi saw that “she (Ruth) was determined (mit’ametzet) to go.”2

What happened in the times of Joshua? The Nation of Israel entered into the Land of Israel after 40 years of wandering around, seemingly “stuck” in the desert. But were their trials over, now that they could enter the land? No, they needed time, they needed strength, they needed determination and effort to conquer the land. They needed the reminder that G‑d wouldWe feel stuck and frustrated neither fail them nor forsake them.

When the verse speaks of Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother, what does it say? She was determined, she exerted great effort to go to Israel and become a Jew. With this effort and determination, she merited to become the progenitor of Moshiach.

And so it is with us.

We feel stuck and frustrated. Why isn’t G‑d answering us? We, as a nation, feel stuck. “Come on,” we plead. “It’s been 2,000 years of exile already! How much longer? How many more trials and tests? What else do You want from us?” We feel like we don’t know how to move forward. We don’t even know how to get down.

“But look at you!” G‑d tells us. “You’ve come so far! You feel like you want to give up? But you’re so close! With a little more strength, a little more courage, a little more effort, you’ll get there. The Redemption will come.”