This week’s Gesher is not based on a specific question, but rather a follow up. Today’s topic—how to have faith in difficult times— is particularly difficult to tackle. Life is raw and real, and faith doesn’t always feel like the answer. I am not here to ra ra ra about how having faith will make the pain go away, because there is no guarantee. However, what I want to explore is how faith can help us come to terms with the dark sides of our lives, and help us transform the dark moments into light.
Let’s wade into the discomfort of Emunah together, and see how we arrive at the other side.
Previously, we defined Emunah as active faith. When you practice Emunah, you’re actively involved in the art of giving and receiving trust. It’s a long term, committed relationship with Your Creator. You’re in this for the long haul. The trust you’ve developed grounds and anchors you.
But, what happens when nothing anchors you? What happens when the pain you’re experiencing is bigger, deeper, and stronger than any grounding force?
I wish I had a one size fits all answer that would wrap this lesson into a neat little package, tied up with a bow, and hand delivered to mend the broken hearted and pained among us. I don’t.
I think the answer to this dilemma lies within pain itself. In a moment of pain, your mind and body shut down. It’s a visceral response. It may not be physical pain, but boy, do you feel it.
What happens in that moment of deep, intense despair? You might let out a sob, a scream, a gasp.
There. That’s the opening for Emunah.
Emunah is an emotional response to the uncomfortability to being human.
Yup. That howl of pain has the potential to elevate your Emunah levels, and bring you to a higher place.
In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe digs deep into the topic of sadness and depression. It is one of the most humane and refined approaches I’ve read on the topic.
“In every sadness there will be profit.” What the Alter Rebbe explains here is that it is not the sadness itself which brings about good, but that there will be an advantage later on.
Pain focuses you inwards, but by doing so, it force you to shift your consciousness towards the bigger world—towards G-d.
The world is a two way street. Good cannot exist or thrive without evil; light does not permeate as strongly without darkness; joy doesn’t feel as good until you’ve worked through your issues. You have to experience the ‘negative’ in order to appreciate and respect the positive.
In pain, you have the ability to grow—you crack open, allowing the light of Hashem to pour in. You see it, you recognize it, and you trust—as painful as it may be—and so the cycle of Emunah begins again.
You have to feel what you feel. Emunah kicks in when you allow yourself to feel pain, sadness, hurt, and anger. Don’t ignore it. Feel it, and learn from it. Emunah is the response to the courage it took to feel human.
I am not implying that you will always feel full with faith and trust. In fact, in those moments of pain, I’d say we all feel empty and lousy. Each person has to find their own way to tune into faith in those moments. For you, maybe that means temporarily letting it go, in order to make more space for it later on.
And then, when you’re ready, act. Do it when the wounds have healed, or even when they’re still raw. Have the courage to let trust in, and allow it to transform negative to positive.