For my family and me, these past 12 months have been quite a ride. We’ve had wonderful times—the birth of our fifth child, nachas from our children, growth and transformation at our synagogue—but also times of suffering and heartbreak.

Between being held up at gunpoint for over two hours (thank G‑d, it ended with just possessions lost) to suddenly losing my 61-year-old father, it's been an emotional rollercoaster and a potent reminder of my mortality.

Through these ordeals, I’ve had to reflect deeply and uncover a part of myself that—thank G‑d—had never surfaced before.

“How Do You Manage?”

Since my father passed away, I’ve heard many well-intentioned and heartfelt words of empathy and compassion from people.

"It must be so difficult!"

"I can't imagine how you're coping with this!"

"If it were me, I'd be falling apart. How do you go on?"

It’s hard for outsiders to see the grief of a fellow human being. They look at one’s pekel (“load”) and cannot fathom how the person gets up in the morning. The load seems too heavy; the pain overwhelming.

And yet many people cope, grow and even thrive in the midst of gut-wrenching trauma.

G‑d Gives Us the Tools

This is what I have discovered: G‑d does not challenge a person unless He gave him the ability and strength to climb that mountain. “According to the camel is the weight we put on it.”1 That person somehow discovers inner strength to deal with his ordeal that other people can’t imagine—because it’s not their challenge!

When it’s your burden, you will find an incredible tenacity to stand up and the perspective to keep on walking. The outsider will only see the challenge, because they weren't given the supernatural coping power for that specific challenge. They only see the natural outcome of these hardships. They cannot tap into the supernatural and spiritual companion to these struggles.

G‑d marries each struggle with the proper tools to handle it—an inner wisdom and special characteristics to deal with that unique journey. The camel is given the ability to handle its load.

Each person has a unique way of thinking. We all process things so differently. That is why two siblings who had similar life experiences can have such varying perspectives on their childhood and upbringing. Even though the objective reality of their home was the same for both, they nevertheless processed that reality through their own prism and paradigm and created a reality in their mind.

This unique ability to “create reality” allows each of us to reframe our experiences in special ways. We can create a story out of our lives that brings us peace and serenity.

That is why we meet people who, objectively, seem to have a terrible life, and yet they are truly happy. They have authored a good story out of their lives. Their life experiences, personality and mindset have been tailor-made by the Ultimate Programmer to have the incredible ability of thriving within their messy lives.

However, there is a caveat: this ability to reframe is only given to us for the sake of our own stories. It’s not our mandate nor right to reframe the life of others.

Last year I officiated at the funeral of a man who had lived through the heartbreaking deaths of two of his three adult children and suffered untold tsuris in other areas of his life. Here was a man who was kind, warm and generous to everyone he met. If there was ever a person for whom there seemed to be no justification for pain, it was him.

And yet, unbelievably, he lived until his last day with joy, faith and empathy. His untold suffering did not break him.

It’s the only time I cried while giving a eulogy. How much strength and tenacity this man possessed! I will forever be in awe of his heroic faith.

No Excuse for Pain

At this point, let me be very clear that in no way am I aiming to justify suffering or offering to serve as G‑d's lawyer. G‑d doesn't need a defense attorney, and I am definitely not volunteering. Just as Abraham and Moses in their time, we aren’t supposed to take pain lying down. We call out to Him in courage and faith, "Why do You make it so hard for your people! We want an end to this. We want Moshiach now!" Pain is not OK.

And yet whilst challenging the Divine, we also ask for His help to stand strong and face our life's challenges head on. We call upon Him to please make it easier. We reach within ourselves for the courage and “reframe-ability” to rise to the challenge.

In the Book of Leviticus, we read of the animal sacrifices that people brought before G‑d in the days of the Holy Temples. Our sages teach that the modern application of sacrifice happens within one's heart. Every time we overcome the impulse of human weakness and the gravitational pull downwards towards narcissism, self-pity or insolence, we have climbed the altar and brought our sacrifice.

And yet, unlike in Temple times when people brought homogeneous sacrifices to the altar (cattle, sheep, birds, flour), the sacrifice of the heart is individualistic. My sacrifices are unique to my life’s journey, and hence, only I can muster the strength to overcome my struggle.

That is why when looking at the suffering of others, we must offer empathy, without over-analyzing or trying to make sense of it. It's their journey. The outsider will never comprehend the full picture of my life's package, and that is the way it is supposed to be. I'll never understand theirs.

For our own lives, however, let us not only focus on the broken, the chipped and the crumbling. Let us look into our toolbox and discover how we were given the exact set of tools to rebuild and make our lives even more beautiful than before. “Challenge” always comes with its companion: “Courage.”