“If you only knew what I struggled with ... ”

I have heard this countless times from teens with a hesitancy borne out of shame, as they are heavily weighed down by a struggle they perceive as unique to them. Here they are, trying to do the right thing, and yet they are beset with pesky compulsions and desires that don’t let up and feel like a contradiction to everything they stand for. Whether the struggle in question has to do with Internet addiction or doubts about G‑d, about their relationship with their parents or pressure from peers, about feelings of despair or debilitating anxiety, they sincerely did not ask to be so spiritually challenged.

The soul didn't ask for it either. In fact, the soul would be much happier staying in its comfy abode in the Garden of Eden. Why should it descend into this world and reside in a body that not only won’t assist it in its holy mission, but will distract it with temptations and pleasures, and sometimes impede its success?

Herein lies the purpose of creation. The soul is not here for itself, but to refine and elevate the animal soul. It is more conducive to experiencing love and fear of G‑d in the upper realms, yet it is here to reveal the truth in the physical world.

A parable is told of a king who wanted to prove how great and moral his son was. To that end, he hired a woman to seduce his son with all tools at her disposal, with the intention that he should refuse her and demonstrate his integrity. It is a form of counterpressure designed to make the prince more spiritually fit. Even the woman herself, who seems to be testing the prince and pushing his limits, truly wants to fail at her job so that the king can derive pleasure from his son’s values and staunch principles.

That’s exactly the truth of the struggles we face. Rather than feel shame, we should feel empowered. When we face a desire to indulge in something immoral or even a thought that will get in the way of serving G‑d, it’s like the woman hired by the king. Even our own inner demons and evil inclination are really just a test to prove how upright we can be. G‑d derives a tremendous amount of joy when we can see through negative desires—for anything forbidden by the Torah—as a test for us to overcome and prove our values.

We may not ask for it, but it is the reason we were born. This struggle is not off the plan, but part and parcel of it. Since we are only given temptations that we can overcome, the struggle is a testament to our potential! And we are gifted with a dedicated time each day to contemplate this essential truth—that everything was created and is recreated by G‑d at every moment.

This is what prayer is all about. We pray and meditate and connect with the truth. That there is no real bad, for even forces that look spiritually impure are just opportunities for us to strengthen our spiritual muscles, and their source is G‑d Himself, Who is absolute Goodness. Nothing on this planet truly denies G‑d, for it is all a deliberate strategy to allow us to shine. When we pray in this manner, prayer becomes a powerful tool to pierce through our day-to-day challenges.

As the Zohar says, “One who does not convert bitterness into sweetness has no portion in the World to Come” because that is the ultimate purpose of creation. By seeing through the “bitterness” of physicality and recognizing the “sweet truth” of what it’s all about, we actually transform the negative energy of our animal soul from bitter to sweet. When we see it for what it is—a test from our loving Father the King—it loses its perceived power over us; and rather than weigh us down, it becomes a workout that makes us infinitely stronger.

Source: From the Maamar in Likutei Torah, “Vayaas Moshe Nachash Nechoshet,” as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapters 1-3.