Our daughter’s journey through her current mental-health and addiction crisis has given her, her parents, and everyone who loves her a heaping serving of pain—more than we ever thought possible.

Of course, as much as we try to keep positive and maintain our faith, there is the inevitable question of why. Why her? Why us? Why now?

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of pain and suffering in Jewish thought and lore. I will leave the in-depth philosophy and theology discussion to the experts. Today I want to focus on one very simple element: how it can serve us.

One of pain’s most basic functions is to let us know we have a problem. If we didn’t feel the heat of a hot oven on our hands, we wouldn’t know to avoid it until it was too late. If our hearts didn’t race, we wouldn’t be on the alert for cardiovascular problems.

This applies not just to the physical pain we endure, but also to the emotional pain we experience. If we are worried, scared, stressed or anxious, that indicates there is reason for concern—something to be curious about and explore. These feelings will guide us and tell us what we should avoid, and what we should “buck up” and push through.

We need these feelings to help us navigate our next steps: Stop a certain behavior or muster the energy to conquer an upcoming challenge.

There is yet a deeper value that only life will teach. These experiences of pain—all of them—help us realize that we have unknown and as yet untapped reservoirs of strength. Without the pain, we wouldn’t have mined our souls to search for these super-powers because life was humming along just fine.

Pain exposes the treasure that was hidden beneath.

Think of oil exploration beneath the earth’s surface. I grew up in the South, and there were these horse-shaped oil wells pumping and pulling oil from deep within the earth. I always found them fascinating and wonderful to watch. You saw something majestic happening even if you couldn’t see the whole process from the pumping horses to filling up the gas tank of your car.

How did the oil companies know where to place those oil wells? While not an expert on the topic, I’ve watched how they drill tiny holes deep into the ground and bring up small samples of what lies beneath before investing the many thousands of dollars needed to install pumping stations.

Yet we humans have been blessed (though it usually doesn’t feel that way at the time) with a Divine drill that does that exploration for us and saves us that step in the process. He – the big HE – G‑d, lets us know that there is liquid gold deep inside us. He sends us pain—experiential, physical or emotional pain—to let us know exactly where to start digging to find the treasure within.

We can allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the work involved in mining for the treasure: the woe unto me and the tears and pain. Or we can dig deep (pun intended) to bring out the gift He is giving us.

We read in the Midrash, “lo miduvsheich velo mi-uktzeich,” which means, “I don’t need your honey and I don’t need your sting.”1 This is a prayer asking G‑d not to give us so many treasures or so much pain. Yet, if He in His infinite wisdom thinks we can handle it, it must mean there is a really great treasure deep down just waiting for us to uncover.

May we all know no more pain or suffering.

The author is a rabbi in North America. This is part of a series of articles chronicling his daughter’s ongoing struggle with addiction and mental illness.