When the Going Gets Tough-Coping with Life’s Challenges


WHEN the going gets tough… the preferred response is retail therapy.

When you are faced with a crisis it is not there to “break” you, but to bring out some hidden strength or ability from within you. By abandoning the attitude that the world is out to “get me,” you transform debilitating negative energy into positive practical energy, which you can then use to help me solve the problem. My challenge is to harness as much of the mental and emotional energy at your disposal and make it work for you, instead of letting pent-up anger and negativity drain you.

But, why me? Always me! Why does everyone else have it so easy?

First of all, it’s not true. Even though it may appear that everything goes smoothly for your neighbor, friend, or boss, it is simply not true. That person may not be going through what you are, but each person faces challenges tailor-made for him or her to bring out their unique hidden strengths and abilities. No one else has your set of abilities and weaknesses, therefore no one else has your set of personal challenges.

When a difficulty or problem comes your way, you must realize that it has never been presented to a person with your genetic or behavioral makeup ever before in world history. This is your special project or mission, for better or worse. It has your name on it. Only you can solve it or deal with it, in accordance with your unique set of abilities and weaknesses. Your neighbor’s marriage, job, house, and all of his or her issues are his to deal with. Looking over your shoulder or envying the situation of your neighbor is merely a waste of personal energy that you could be conserving to deal with your own challenges.

Let’s go to the source of the challenge itself. It is God who has personally sent you the challenge you are currently facing. God has put you into the universe at this particular time, in this place, and with a certain set of strengths and weaknesses, in order to invite you to make your unique contribution to the world—to, in fact, change and uplift the world. God personally engineers events and customizes challenges just for you, so that you can develop your personality and actualize your potential by facing, dealing with, and growing through the ordeal. The going does get tough, because God is sending you challenges, in order to have you focus on the issue at hand, in order to help you develop your personality through dealing with the issue, and become a better person in the process.

Let’s go deeper. “God” is really only one of the names of God. God’s “real” name is Ein Sof, which means Never Ending, or Infinite One, or Perfect One. He sometimes chooses to relate to us with His Attribute of Mercy. When He reveals His merciful side to us, we know Him—at that moment—as Harachaman, the Merciful One. But sometimes the Ein Sof relates to us with ordeals and challenges. Then He is known to us by His Attribute of Justice—as the True Judge. And sometimes the Ein Sof treats us as a guiding parent, and is known to us as “Avinu-“Father.”

All of these “names” are merely terms of reference for us to be able to better understand the nature of our relationship with the Ein Sof at a particular point in time. The common denominator of all of these names is that the Ein Sof is NeverEnding, unfolding and expansive. This does not mean that God is growing; it means that there is no limit to His growth.

The purpose of life—is to become as close to the Infinite One as is humanly possible. In order for us to come close, in fact, to actually become like the Ein Sof we have to expand, unfold, and grow in our personalities, values, knowledge, and character. For us to achieve this, the Ein Sof, of necessity must challenge us with issues, ordeals, crises, and problems, so that we can work through these issues, and grow and develop our character and horizons. Therefore, issues, ordeals, and crises are an essential part of the process of becoming the person you are supposed to become.

When God created man, He said, “Let us make man.” Who was the “us” in that statement? The traditional answer is that God used characteristics of the animal world with which to create man. He used the majesty of the lion, the tenacity of the tiger and the resourcefulness of the fox. He “borrowed” these traits from “us”—the created animal kingdom—and incorporated them in the makeup and composition of the human persona. Hence, God consulted with “us,” His “underlings,” His creations, in order to fashion the human psyche.

There is a second, and more instructive answer to the question: Does God have a partner in the creation of man? Actually, yes. The partner is man, himself. God is saying to man, “Let us, you and I, together, create you. Let you and I together contribute to the creation, the “becoming” of man.” Everything that God sends your way is designed to help you create and recreate yourself on a daily, ongoing, basis.

When the Ein Sof sends you a challenge, the basic question you must answer is the question implied within the challenge itself: What do You Want from me, Ein Sof? What are You trying to teach me with this challenge? How can I become a better person through dealing with the issues that You, Ein Sof, are presenting to me? A challenge is the Ein Sof’s way of tapping you on the shoulder and saying: expand, grow and achieve your potential. Become more like Me.

What if I find it difficult to maintain my faith in the face of excruciating difficulty? What if I sometimes feel God has abandoned me-since I don’t feel Him helping or guiding me at this particular point in time?

Let’s analyze this for a moment. There are many things in life that we can experience, even though we don’t see them. Electricity, radio waves and gravity, for example. These are all invisible forces that exert power in the world. They cannot be seen, but they can be felt, or experienced.

The Ein Sof is in everything and, at the same time, transcends everything. It is that which sustains the molecular structure of the universe—it is intimately connected with the world and everything in it. At the same time, it is the source of all that is found within the natural world—it is transcendent. The Ein Sof is imminent and transcendent at the same time. That is why we can feel close to God and simultaneously feel He is unknowable.

Not only is the Ein Sof the Creator of this amazing universe, He is also the Parent, Guide, and Supervisor of the world and everything in it. The Creator aspect of Ein Sof did not create the world, give it a spin and then go off for a holiday on one of His sandy white beaches in the Mediterranean. The Ein Sof is involved in guiding each and every individual in His world toward our own destiny, toward fulfilling our potential. He is a personal God. He is your personal God. It is through the challenges and issues that God presents to you, that He engages in a personal relationship with you. It is to the Ein Sof, the Source of your life energy, that you are asked to direct your dialogue, yearnings, and prayers.

You can also experience the Ein Sof, by becoming aware of the Ein Sof quality within you, that which is “Godly” in you—your soul. The Ein Sof plants a unique spark of His Essence in you, called the Soul, in order for you to be able to relate to Him.

Your soul is personal and unique, unlike any other. Whenever you experience a surge of meaning within your being, whenever you feel that there is something more to life than what you see—that is the movement of the Ein Sof within you. When, for example, you feel the sunset speaking to you that is the soul within you being activated. If you feel the mountain air revive you with renewed energy as you view a waterfall from a mountain ridge, you are experiencing the Infiniteness outside of you and within you.

The awareness and appreciation of your soul “self,” leads to an holistic sense of wholeness and inner tranquility. This is known as your soul state-which is your state of homeostasis–a state of equilibrium and inner contentment. I call it the soul state because it is the state of being which is aligned with God. When in this state you are put in the state of “being” that Hashem intended for you as your Godly state because, while in this state, you are feeling connected to God. This is a state of “daat”-knowledge of God-rather than merely, belief in God. In this state, you are experiencing Godliness—your own Divine Spark. This is your closest connection to God– and you feel relaxed, calm, at peace. You feel a sense of-wholeness-in this state everything is clear-you can achieve anything.

You can put yourself into your Soul State by experiencing your finest Godly Attribute. You can access this state by first imagining a beautiful landscape or place that you find relaxing and rejuvenating. It may be the Grand Canyon, the beach or a sunset. Go to that place in your mind and describe the landscape to yourself with all its colors, sounds, and scents. Feel the place. Experience the sense of calm and relaxation that you feel in this place. Now, realize that the reason you have this feeling of calm which arises when you go to this place of external beauty is because it merely reflects the Grand Canyon, the beach or the sunset, that resides in your inner self. Search your mind, psyche and, soul and find the warmest, most sensitive and relaxed part of yourself. That is the Grand Canyon, beach or sunset within you.

This feeling of wholeness and wholesomeness inside your psyche is there because the Grand Canyon inside you represents and actually is your awareness of your highest and best attribute. That is the reason that you feel calm and expansive when you see a beautiful place…because it mirrors and reflects your own beautiful place, inside you. When you focus on and contemplate this place-the place where your best attributes reside –the core of your real self-then you experience wholeness.  This is a taste of experiencing the real self-the real you.

These attributes can be consistency, never giving up, perseverance, leadership, compassion, graciousness, empathy, sincerity, patience, mellowness, chilled,  loving-kindness, integrity, creativity with ideas, music, art, forgiveness, and resilience.

When you contemplate, recognize and activate that attribute- the real part of your “self”, then you are truly alive-and that is why you feel whole.  When you are in this state of being nothing can throw you off track–because you are connected with truth-you know the truth. This the meaning of  daat—inner wisdom. You don’t believe it to be true-you know it is true.

In this state of being, “thoughts” of self-doubt are irrelevant. Thoughts are merely electrical impulses form the brain-they are not “real.” Sometimes you have positive thoughts which lead to good feeling, good mood and positive sensations in your body. Sometimes you have anxious thoughts, which lead to tense feelings, a depressed mood and stress in your body. Thoughts fluctuate and cause our moods to fluctuate. These thoughts are part of the world of fantasy-they are not real. The way to avoid the mood swings brought on by fluctuating anxious thoughts is to leave your head space-leave your thoughts-and go to your soul state. Here, no thoughts are relevant-because you are connected to daat–truth itself-to your Godly self.

Rabbi Yisroel Roll is a dynamic motivational speaker, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and depression, and the author of nine books on self-esteem. He has lectured in Canada, the USA, England, South Africa,When the Going Gets Tough Podcast 1 and Israel. Rabbi Roll is the Director of Believe in Yourself Psychotherapy, the UK Encounter Conference and served as the rabbi of the New West End Synagogue in London, England.