One of the greatest opportunities in life comes when we fall short of something.
The best part of emunah is that it leads to spiritual progress. We reach a point where life always gets better. We are more energized. Our goals are met. We see more abundance in everything that we do. Former dreams become the current reality. When Hashem blesses us in everything we ask for it’s time to ask for more. To embark on a greater journey requires additional provisions. A six year old simply needs a pen and paper to go to school each day. A university student needs laptop.
It’s the pitfalls that slip us up. It’s when we are moving along on our next big step when suddenly we are hit with a tribulation that grinds life to a screeching halt. In a state of panic we see the pitfall as a cliff. If we don’t watch ourselves we could fall into the abyss.
When we come to a point where our progress seems halted the instinct is to get depressed. The natural inclination is to come to the conclusion that we are not going anywhere. That’s when we fall into despair.
Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to go with it. Let the sadness approach.
Hashem provides us with everything we need to accomplish something except for one thing: effort. That’s our responsibility.
Hashem will help. He can position a situation in such a way where in order to get what we want we have to really work for it. We have to overcome feelings of despair, desperation, even total exhaustion in order to proceed to our own end.
Part of the effort is working through pain. Part of the perseverance is not knowing whether or not we will succeed. Part of the test is understanding that whether or not we succeed, it is all a part of G-d’s plan and He is doing all of it for our benefit.
Try explaining that to someone who wanted something to happen so bad, he can’t even breathe because he so disappointed it didn’t materialize. Try accepting this when we are that someone.
It’s a blessing when this happens. When things don’t go our way it is a real opportunity. When we are tempted to feel anger or are mired in a mini-depression, G-d is setting us up. He is putting us exactly where we need to be.
Sadness amplifies our awareness of what we want and cannot have at this moment. If there were ever a moment to write down a list of what we were striving for this is the time.
When we feel the loss the most, it’s the ideal time to ask ourselves what we would have done had we succeeded in this task. Which material amenities were we going to buy? How were we going to feel? The picture is clearest when we think we can’t have it.
Once we’ve made our list we see a perfect snapshot of what our goal was really about. You will be surprised to notice that the written list is much more detailed than what we originally arranged in our head. When we set an objective we often blind ourselves to everything but “the main goal.” Only when we lose do we truly lament over everything else which accompanied it.
This is the point of epiphany! This is where we realize that Hashem set up everything for our own good. The despair is part of the progress! We asked Hashem for these blessings and He is repositioning Heaven and earth to put us in the exact position to make our best efforts to receive them.
We use this list for our daily talks with G-d. We ask our Maker: What does the current failure teach us about where we need to improve in life? What will we do as every individual goal is achieved? In full detail, how have we improved from these tough times and personally benefitted. What are we thanking G-d for in sending us this special tribulation?
We have the greatest opportunity to acknowledge that even when He has not yet granted our blessings, He has already answered our prayers!
When G-d does bless us with these goals, we will be forever more grateful. Only in a state of loss can we truly appreciate the value of what we are trying to accomplish. Only in truly appreciating what we are after can we fully give Hashem the thanks He deserves for redeeming us. With each step forward, we are revitalized with feelings of relief, success, and most of all, gratitude.
We can spend the rest of our lives thanking Hashem for the prayers He has answered. We can now recall how much it all meant to us and channel that energy towards our prayers of Thanksgiving.
This may be why G-d sends us the pitfalls in the first place.
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Dovber Halevi is the author of Sex, Religion, and the Middle East, a book about personal holiness and happiness. He lives in Israel with his wife and three children.