Blessing in Disguise
How should we react when things don't go the way we want them to? In this week's Torah portion, our forefather Jacob carefully planned and worked very hard to marry the beautiful Rachel. Despite all this, he ended up getting tricked into first marrying her older sister, Leah. Despite his disappointment, Jacob accepted what happened as being God's will, and though it seemed bad, it ended up being very good, as Leah became the mother of six out of Jacob's 12 sons and played a big part in helping him reach his life's goal of building the Jewish people.
We can learn from here a valuable lesson: We should do what we can to make things work out the way we would like them to, but if they don't, we should know that it isn't just a 'bad break,' but rather it is God's way of giving us something good that we didn't even realize we needed.
In our story some kids discover that sometimes what seems like a disaster is really a blessing in disguise.
What a disaster! We had been planning this thing for weeks, and now I felt like I was watching all my hard work and careful plans going up in smoke before my very eyes.
Unlike a lot of kids I knew, I never went on vacations or did anything exciting during school break. I was so tired of watching all my friends flying off to here and there and coming back all tanned, and full of stories and souvenirs about their great times, when usually all I had at the end of school break was a couple of boring novels under my belt, and maybe a few extra pounds I gained from all the ice cream I ate while reading them.
But this year was different. It wasn't easy, but I had convinced my parents to let my sister, Jenny, and I to fly down south and spend the break with our cousins, the Silvers, who lived by a beautiful beach. After about a hundred phone calls and arrangements, Jenny and I finally worked out all the details. I could hardly wait for the school semester to end, to say good-bye to the boring winter blues and trade them in for ten full days of fun in the sun.
Everything was going along as planned, until about a week before the trip, when my aunt called. She was so apologetic and said when she told us we could stay with them, she hadn't realized my uncle had already invited friends to come for the very same days.
Boy was I disappointed! What rotten luck! I started tearfully unpacking, and I didn't know how I would possibly break the bad news to Jenny. She had worked even harder on arranging the trip and was even more excited than I was.
With my own tears barely dry, I slowly walked into Jenny's room, carrying a box of Kleenex. I figured she would need them for her tears once I told her the bad news. But I couldn't believe it the way she took it. Though I could tell she was disappointed, she just took it all in stride and said it must be for the best, and if we were meant to get there, we would.
That was the last thing I expected, or wanted to hear. I'm embarrassed to say it, but I kind of got into a big fit and accused her of not being normal - after all, wouldn't any normal person be as upset as I was over something like this?
Not wanting to give up, we racked our brains to come up with another plan, and sure enough Jenny came up with a brilliant idea. She remembered from the time we visited our cousins when we were little kids that there was a small motel literally across the street from their condominium complex. The words had barely left her mouth when I jumped on the phone to ask my aunt about it.
Success! My aunt thought it was a great idea and said we could sleep at the motel, but spend our days and eat all of our meals with them. She even offered to pay for part of the motel since she felt so bad about the mix up.
I teased Jenny about her take-it-or-leave-it attitude, and told her that if you wanted something to happen, you had to make it happen. (I guess I sort of conveniently forgot that the motel was her idea and not mine.) My sister just smiled and said, "Paula, if God wants us to get there, we will. And if not, there is a good reason for that too." I thought she was all wet, but had too much re-packing to do to even bother arguing with her.
Things were looking up - until a couple of hours later when my aunt called back. It seemed the motel was all booked up! I was sure this time Jenny would get as down about it as I was, but again she just shrugged and said, "If God isn't letting us take this vacation after trying so hard, there must be a good reason." I just rolled my eyes and went back to my room to have a good cry.
Winter break arrived and I was getting ready for ten days of absolute boredom - all my friends had packed up and gone south to the sun, and here we were, stuck at home again.
A couple of days later Jenny and I were sitting in the kitchen having lunch, and I was in the middle of telling her how all wet she and her 'everything's for the best' philosophy was, when the phone rang. Jenny picked it up. It was Tanya, one of the kids in our class who had taken off on vacation. I assumed she was calling from down south to gloat about how good a time she was having.
"Really?" Jenny said. "That's too bad." My ears perked up. "Hurricane warning... Airport was closed?" Hey what was going on?
Jenny hung up the phone and shook her head. "You're not going to believe it," she said.
Turns out that a big unexpected storm had totally closed up that part of the southern coast. All our friends who flew there just had to turn around and fly right back home - if they were lucky. If they couldn't fly back in time, they got stuck spending their break far away from home in the middle of a hurricane! Talk about being 'all wet!' Boy, I never felt happier to be home, safe and dry in my life.
I looked at Jenny and she at me with a look that said it all. She had really been right all along; the whole time I thought God was trying to stop us from having a good time, He was really stopping us from getting into an annoying and maybe even dangerous mess! I think from now on I'm going to try to be a little more like my smart sister, and not get upset so fast if things don't turn out the way I think they should, because you really never know.
Q. How did Paula first feel when her vacation plans didn't work out?
A. She felt angry and disappointed and didn't see any good in it at all.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was grateful they had missed the hurricane, and saw how by not letting them go, God had really done them a favor.
Q. Which of the two sisters do you think had the right attitude? Why?
A. It is understandable how Paula felt, as it is easy to focus on our disappointment when things don't work out like we planned. But, Jenny's attitude of acceptance, was much better in the long run.
Q. Was Paula right when she said, "If you want something to happen you have to make it happen"?
A. Yes and no. God put us in the world and gave us the power to choose what we want. He also wants us to make a real effort to reach the goals we choose. But ultimately our efforts are only going to succeed if God decides to 'let' them, and He is the only one who decides whether something is going to happen or not.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. If everything that happens is directed by God for our benefit, does that mean that nothing is bad?
A. From a human perspective there are definitely things which seem to be good and others which appear to be bad. God has planted those perceptions within us, and definitely wants us to pursue that which is 'good', and distance ourselves from that which is 'bad.' The Torah, and its many guidelines, is in fact an instruction manual of how to do just that. However, in a deeper sense, part of us has to always remember that 'bad' is in essence only a disguised type of 'good', and that whatever happens, to trust in God, and believe that someday the good hidden within it will be revealed.
Q. How can a person develop his powers of seeing God's guiding hand in our lives, and accepting things when they don't go the way he hoped they would, despite our best efforts?
A. One powerful and life-enhancing tool is to keep a journal listing one event each day where we are able to see a purposeful and beneficial 'coincidence' that has happened to us. The truth is they are not merely coincidences, but God's way of speaking with and letting us know He's here. At first they may be difficult to spot, but if you persist you will begin to see them more and more, and be amazed at how your life is being planned and guided every step of the way.