One day when my son was in basic training in the Israeli army, he felt pushed beyond his limits. He spoke up to his commander, “I can’t do it. I’m not capable of it.”

But his commander wouldn’t let him off the hook. “You have no idea what you’re capable of,” he responded.

And with that extra push, my son was able to finish the task – and much more.

I think about this incident every year as I prepare for Rosh Hashanah and think about my relationship with the Almighty. Frequently life seems hard and I turn to Him and say, “I can’t do it. I’ve reached my limit.” And the Almighty, Who knows me much better than my son’s commander knew him, says (so to speak), “You have no idea what you’re capable of.”

And even further, “I will put you in some situations to help you realize how much more you can be, how much growth is available, how deep your reserves are, how strong your trust and commitment are.”

I certainly don’t always live up to the Almighty’s image of me! I definitely don’t feel like being pushed to grow. Yet it does seem a shame that all of us have so much potential and so few of us actually realize it.

The army is one way to bring a certain latent potential to fruition – our physical strength, our grit, our determination. The Almighty’s tests are a boot camp to help us actualize our spiritual potential – our faith, our trust, our inner convictions.

We don’t pass every test. But we get credit for trying. We get credit for staying in the game, for not giving up.

Right before Rosh Hashanah, that same Israeli commander had a different message for his troops. “I’m sorry if I came across too harshly,” he said. “Please forgive me – but I was only doing it for your own good.” Pause a minute to think about this. Inconceivable to imagine such a conversation taking place in any other army!

Our challenges are also for our own good, even if we can’t see it, even if we don’t realize it, even if we don’t want them! Life is wonderful and difficult all at the same time. There is tremendous beauty and tremendous pain and it is all an opportunity for growth and connection to our Creator.

We can choose to embrace these opportunities with love or turn away from them with bitterness. Either way they will still be there. Either way the Almighty will continue to love us. Either way the Almighty will continue to give us a chance to grow and change. Either way the Almighty will continue to operate with our best interests at heart.

We can’t control the external circumstances of our lives but we can decide whether to welcome the chance to dig deeper and discover who we really are or to turn away from it. Some days I’m in the mood to welcome it and some days I feel like just being left alone, like I’ve grown enough (and then I’m appalled by such a thought!). But no matter what type of day I’m having and what mood I’m choosing to be in, I continue to recognize that everything the Almighty does is for my good and that He alone knows what I’m truly capable of and the best way to help me achieve it.