Over and over again, I have heard the expression, “Let go and let G‑d.” It is well and good to express this, but to a person in extreme mental or physical circumstances, it is a platitude that cannot penetrate the pain. To actually let G‑d take over one’s life means relinquishing control, holding nothing back, realizing He is directing our lives—and for the good. We cannot see G‑d. We just have to somehow grab fiercely onto the belief that G‑d is there in every millisecond and aspect of our lives.

In 1986, when I was 34 years old and myI was too terrified to cry out to G‑d husband of 16 years was 42, my husband committed suicide in our home after holding me and my children hostage for an amount of time that seemed to stretch on forever. I was too terrified in that moment to cry out to G‑d for help. My first desire and effort were to try to stop this horror unfolding in front of me and my kids. I just wanted the terror to cease, however that might come about.

But there was no way to stop what was happening, and my children and I, finally allowed to leave the house, were fortunate to get out with our lives.

Where was G‑d in all this? Though I could not see it, He was there all the time. It is a lesson that takes an open mind and an open heart to learn. Like so many people, I was tuned in only to the moment and not to its larger meaning for my life.

Mine was not a marriage made in heaven. It was fraught with anger and ill-advised behavior, made up of two people with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. My husband had lost his job, and our marriage was spiraling into nothingness.

But G‑d is in everything. Even in the darkest, ugliest circumstances, G‑d stands beside us and dictates what will happen. In this case, G‑d took my husband home to himself, and miraculously spared me and my children.

Still, I couldn’t see or hear the G‑d to whom I owed my life. All of us tune in to G‑d’s presence in our lives for different reasons and at different times. We have to be able to prepare our hearts to accept that G‑d can lift our burdens and move us forward towards His light. As David said in Psalm 27: “The L‑rd is my light and my help; whom should I fear? The L‑rd is the stronghold of my life, whom should I dread?”

My heart battered and unprepared, I spent the following 10 years allowing myself to be completely defined by that moment in time. I could not stop thinking about it. I told the story to anyone who would listen—a flood of words to purge the pain. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started the regimen of medicine that it would take years to get right. During the next decade, I spent time in and out of mental health facilities trying to heal. And in that time, G‑d granted me love and new life opportunities in the form of a second husband, and still I didn’t hear His voice.

In the ensuing years, with lots of therapy, I learned to hold myself accountable for my own actions and feelings. I was able to loosen the knots of external events that defined me and held me back from living. This allowed me to experience my first encounter with the power of G‑d’s love and the knowledge that He had saved my life for some intentional purpose of which I was not yet aware. Awareness came slowly.

Growing up, I had been raised as a Christian, though my parents were Jews. This added to my confusion about where I stood with G‑d, and what He wanted of me in this life. I vacillated a long time before deciding that I felt like an empty vessel and needed to follow a new path. I began to explore my Jewish roots, and felt a yearning and a blossoming as I studied and slowly began to embrace a Jewish life. For the first time, I felt I could hear G‑d’s distinct call to live a life of joy and of meaning—to let go of the past and work hard to make the rest of my life count as a Jewish person whose job it is to be the good in this world.

I discovered that there is, for every Jew, teshuvah—the G‑d-given right to return with humility and be wiped clean, to become a completely new person. I began to chronicle and publish stories of my Jewish journey, and I began to see my value and purpose in life—not only in the sharing of my experience, but in the positive effect I had on perfect strangers who read my stories and were moved by them.

Now I am on a clearer path. I am studyingI want to better understand what G‑d expects of me Torah with Rabbi Yosef Goldwasser, the Chabad emissary in Mobile, Ala. I want to better understand what makes me truly Jewish, what G‑d expects of me and what I can offer my fellow Jews in thanks for G‑d’s beneficence in my life.

I am moving in what I feel is a positive direction as I learn to live a fully Jewish life. I am learning that G‑d has the power to save each of us; He literally saved my life. G‑d can save us from despair, worry and any thorny problem that keeps us from being centered on His omnipresence. Lighting Shabbat candles and baking challah are now a permanent part of my practice, along with making every effort to connect with the various parts of what I consider my Jewish community.

And so, finally, I can internalize “Let go and let G‑d.” For each time G‑d grants me an opportunity to be a better Jew, and to share my heritage, myself or my resources, I feel the power of His presence. There is no equivocating: connecting to G‑d has become the best part of me and has made my life joyful.