Struggle: Spiritual Growth Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Struggle

I have been in a year-long legal battle with someone who is trying to literally destroy my life. This has been the biggest challenge I have faced in 25 years (when I lost $5 million in a business deal gone sour). I just can't figure out what God wants from me on this. Any ideas?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is very difficult for us to "judge" God because we are stuck in time and space. And because our view is so limited, we are therefore limited in terms of knowing which ground rules God is employing. When "bad" things happen, there are so many possibilities of why it's happening. "Is this a challenge in life that was given to me so I could become an example to inspire others? Or is this to get me to fix a wrong I've done? Or is this due to historical/national forces that are affecting me as an individual? Or is what's happening to me now through a choice that I've made? Or that I'm on my own because I've distanced myself?"

Sometimes what we perceive as punishment is really an opportunity for growth. In the story of the "Binding of Isaac," the Torah says that "God tested Abraham." Of course God already knew what Abraham was capable of. So who was the test for? It wasn't for God; it was for Abraham.

I want to share a story that I heard from a friend who experienced the following incident. If you've ever ridden a bus in Israel, you know how people enter the bus from the front door and pay the driver, and people exiting the bus do so from the back door. Sometimes the bus is so crowded that people will also enter from the back door, and then pass their money up front to pay the driver.

Well, this one time the driver decided he wasn't going to allow that. He announced that whoever had entered from the back door, must now get off the bus and walk around to the front. Everybody complied grumpily, except for one very old man who could barely walk in the first place. Yet the driver stuck to his guns and announced that the bus would not move until this old man came on through the front door.

So slowly, slowly, one small step at a time, the old man got off the bus and walked around. And all the while, the people on the bus were shouting at the driver for not only his insensitivity to the old man, but for wasting everyone's time!

Finally, the old man managed to make it up through the front door and pay the driver. And then he turned toward the bus full of angry people and told them: "Please, don't be upset. We should be grateful that my legs still work, and I have the strength to walk. Thank God!!"

The Almighty only provides a challenge that you can pass. Apparently this is the challenge that the Almighty gave for you to grow. I know you can rise to it and take pleasure in your success. And it will make you stronger and better.

I want to conclude with the following poem I once read:

I asked for strength and

God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom and

God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity and

God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage and

God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for love and

God gave me troubled people to help...

My prayers were answered.

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