Faith can be an elusive thing. Just when you think that you have it mastered, that you have superglued your will to G‑d’s and know without a doubt that you will always get “the rain at the proper time,” you get smacked on the side of the head, and you realize that all that faith that you have built up was nothing but an illusion. It slips through your fingers like the light from the prism that hangs in your window.

For me, the simple stuff was my undoing. I had stumbled through one crisis after another, picking up a few scrapes and bruises, but essentially still had my faith intact. Then, four simple words had me throwing up my hands, screaming “enough already!” and wondering why G‑d was picking on me.

For me, the simple stuff was my undoing

The fact of the matter is that the four words weren’t outrageous. They weren’t threatening, and they weren’t uttered as an ultimatum. They were a simple request. My husband wanted to move into the small town twenty miles away, and he wanted to do it “twenty minutes ago.” He couldn’t handle the maintenance of our rural home, not even with the help that I gave him. He couldn’t even handle the thought of it. His health was failing.

I could understand that. I really could. I just didn’t want to deal with it, didn’t want to add it to all the stuff that I’d had to deal with for the past two years. But in spite of my lack of enthusiasm, I began to search for an acceptable rental in the small community where we wished to move. And it wasn’t easy. There were very few rentals in our chosen town. I put our name on long lists, and then visited a friend who owned a duplex that she rented out. “I don’t keep lists,” she told me. “Just know that if one of my tenants leaves, then the unit is yours.”

Well, I was relieved, but knew deep down that chances were slim to none. The duplex we wanted was lovely, in an excellent area, close to doctors, a hospital and a care center. There was lots of green space, with great hiking trails that transformed to cross-country ski trails in the winter. The water was excellent, and the rent was very reasonable. Nah, no vacancy there in the future. Both tenants would be crazy to give it up. But give it up one did. We were notified the first of August, and began moving on the first of September.

The move was when the erosion of my faith began to occur, and when fear began to bite at my heels. How could we possibly survive in town? After all, I had mastered rural living successfully. This survival had become an emotional comfort. I knew what to expect. I’d done it all before, year after year. I knew all about the hard work, whether it was getting in the winter’s supply of wood, shoveling snow on long drives, gardening, and surviving the bone-chilling cold, which could dip to 40 below. I’d done it. I was comfortable with it. I didn’t want to change. The thought of something new was terrifying. So many problems could surface. After all, we would be going from owning our own home to renting. What if the duplex were sold, or the rent soared? What if the power went out? We would be depending on gas heat rather than wood heat. We would freeze.

I didn’t want to change. The thought of something new was terrifying

I had so many excuses. So many “what ifs” were echoing through my mind that I almost became paralyzed by fear. I was irrational. No doubt about it. My reasoning made absolutely no sense. After all, “G‑d blesses you in the city and in the fields” (Deut. 28:3). He walks with us “through green pastures and the shadow of death” (Psalm 23), and “were I to take up wings of dawn and were I to dwell in the distant west, G‑d’s hand would guide me” (Psalm 139). He would be there!

So, what was my problem? I knew all this. I’d experienced all this during a series of very difficult challenges. G‑d had been there then, and He would surely follow me to our duplex twenty miles away.

But maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t entirely a faith issue. Maybe it was also an “I’ve had it with the bad stuff, and all I want is to retire in tranquility” issue. Maybe I was like Jacob when he “lived in the land of his father’s residences, in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 37:1). According to Rashi (which I learned from Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s Living Each Week), Jacob wanted to retire in tranquility, but then he lost Joseph. What this says to me is even the best of us aren’t immune to challenges and loss. We can’t outrun them, nor can we avoid them by remaining in our comfort zone, which for me was our rural home. Few among our people have ever experienced an extended period of tranquility. Few among society as a whole have ever walked through life without heartache and problems. And if Jacob couldn’t finally achieve total tranquility, then why should I expect it?

For some reason, those facts had escaped me. I was blinded by my need to avoid any future problems. I didn’t even want to make any major decisions. I didn’t want any whimpers of discontent. What I wanted was to take over at the wheel, and push G‑d into the passenger seat. I’d had enough of His messing with my plans and rescheduling my events. Granted, all of the challenges in my past had worked out well and made me stronger. But I wanted to call it quits. No more tests, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. That became my goal, and it was that goal that was messing with my faith.

It was that goal that was blinding me to the true meaning of trust. I knew without a doubt that G‑d would always walk me through problems, but my faith wavered because I wanted Him to eliminate the problems. I didn’t trust Him to do it my way. I was afraid to take the risks, because I knew that my way wasn’t part of the contract that was given to us at Sinai. And because of that, my faith was beginning to crumble. It was becoming shallow. And shallow doesn’t work.

I didn’t trust Him to do it my way

Since our move, I have had nearly three months of tranquil waters. I have appreciated each month and each moment. But challenges are nipping at my heels once again. However, now I know that they can’t be avoided, but they can be met head-on with the faith that kept our ancestors going. My stomach may tie up in knots as the problems present themselves, and perhaps I may shake my fist with one hand—but I will definitely reach out with the other, searching for G‑d and grabbing onto Him in absolute, total faith. After all, that’s what Jacob did.