I’m spiritual. I’m generous. I share my time and my love. I am a good person; therefore, I’m protected from negativity. I’m spiritual, so nothing bad can happen to me.
This is an illusion that even I’ve fallen prey to, thinking that leading a spiritual life inoculates us from turmoil and difficulties. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, often the MORE spiritual and sharing we become, the more “challenges” come our way. The reason why these tests come is because there is great Light and blessings coming to us, and especially once you have decided to embrace transformation, the opportunities to do exactly that are abundant. From the Bible we learn that Abraham and Sara had trouble conceiving, Rebecca and Isaac had a very negative child, Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but ended up marrying her sister Leah and had to wait 7 years to marry Rachel. Why? Because before we receive great blessings, we are given a test so that we can merit the blessings.
When we are tested, we don’t know why, and our inclination is to fight it. But the reason we are tested is because there’s a blessing about to come our way. Kabbalists tells stories of how the parents of great souls who are going to come to this world are often tested before they can merit that child to come to them; every time great blessings are coming into our lives, negativity is first given the opportunity to build a barrier to block them.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” -Helen Keller
We all fall short and succumb to reactive, negative behavior from time to time. Who hasn’t cast a sharp glance at the loud person in line shouting into their cell phone, or muttered under our breath in frustration with a coworker? Who hasn’t done a lot worse than those examples? It is those negative reactions that determine the length and difficulty of our challenges. When we fight our negative inclination to lash out, hold a grudge, or focus on the injustice of why something is happening to us, then our experience of difficulty is less challenging.
Often we see a challenge or a test, and rather than seeing it as a process and ultimately an opportunity that will lead to greater blessings, we see it as a punishment. However, that could not be further from reality. If we have the consciousness to recognize even small challenges (New York taxi drivers!) as opportunities for blessings, it would be easier to practice tolerance and charity in even greater situations of difficulty (like applying for your dream job and not getting it). It only takes a small shift, a moment of clarity, to turn a situation that could have left your blood boiling and your internal dialogue vitriolic into something so far beneath your notice that it has nearly no effect on you whatsoever.
So, how do we flip this and begin to see challenges as opportunities instead of punishment?
When I find myself in difficulty, I know that it is the Creator reminding me that I don’t have enough certainty in the process. I get the messages – I know everything that is happening is part of a bigger picture, and that the meanings are important and far beyond what we can see in the physical world. I know that my consciousness dictates the outcome of the circumstances.
“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.” -Wall Street Journal
You never know when you will break through. You don’t know which step, which effort will be the breakthrough that gets you through the challenge. It’s the change that occurs during the difficult process that inspires us and reveals our greatness. Why on earth would we ever shy away from these experiences?
Kabbalists teach that we can spend our lives doing what is natural and easy, thinking we have accomplished great things – but to accomplish the true purpose to which we came to this World, we need to push against our nature and comfort. Difficulties are the way we find our purpose. Ultimately, everything that has happened to you – and will happen to you – is for your own good and to help you reach your ultimate potential.
Thought Into Action What challenge in your life feels like a punishment?
Change your perspective, and even if you can’t understand it now, know that it is a great opportunity. You have two choices – to adopt, or at least consider that challenges may in fact be opportunities, or feel slighted and disappointed by life. How will you approach your challenges differently?