Dear Rachel,

I have been battling debt for the better part of three decades. I have done everything in my power to pay back my debts, but every time I make a little headway, something happens to plunge me into debt again. I try to be responsible with my money: I’ve gone to financial advisers, read books and done everything it says in the literature to get myself out of this hole. I’ve also done everything spiritually that I’m aware of. I’ve tithed, made sure not to work on Shabbat and tried to do good with the little money I have.

Nothing helps. I don’t know what’s left to do.

In Despair

Dear Overflowing With Equanimity,

What you’re describing—if your description is accurate—may be a symptom of a more serious issue than something that a financial adviser alone can help with. It is a test. Everyone has one. With some people, it’s getting married; with others it’s having children; with still others, it’s getting along with their children. Other tests include health issues (mental or physical), social problems and, like you have been experiencing, money problems. It’s not that you have necessarily done anything wrong or not done enough; this is the area in which G‑d is testing you to help you become the person He knows you can be.

Abraham, the first Jew and our patriarch, was given 10 tests. And not easy ones. The reason for tests is not for G‑d to see how you’ll do. He already knows; the point is for you to see what your mettle is and how you’ll respond. Will you be angry and bitter, or accepting and compassionate? Will you renounce your faith or strengthen your emunah (belief)? Will you fall into depression, or remain hopeful and positive? Will you help others going through the same difficulty or withdraw within yourself? Will you give up or strengthen your resolve? Who will you become as a result of your struggle? That’s the important part. The struggle itself is secondary as long as you’re doing what is considered reasonable and necessary to overcome it.

All great people of our history had difficult tests to endure, and the greater the person, the bigger the test (for example, our patriarch Jacob, King David, our matriarchs Sarah and Rachel). What made them great was not that they overcame their trials, it was because of how they dealt with them—with resilience, faith, humility and the desire to better themselves to be worthy of G‑d’s help. G‑d often also tempers tests with miracles; if you examine your life, you’re sure to notice a few.

Try not to be so ensconced in your fiscal difficulties that you don’t appreciate the good in your life. Expressing gratitude is an important component to attracting more good in your life. In fact, if the good is there and you don’t notice, it’s as if it weren’t.

I can’t promise you that you’ll resolve your problems. I can promise you, however, that if you grapple with them and at the same time work on being kinder, more sensitive, accepting and grateful, then you will have fulfilled your Divine purpose and drawn closer to G‑d, which is all we ever need or want.

Wishing you what is priceless and most valuable,