Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adversity + Humility + Acceptance = Transcendence

We do not know exactly why God gives us our challenges. But many have noticed that difficulties can refine us and help us get in touch with our spiritual side. How does that work?

Our life’s purpose is to develop a relationship with our Creator; that's why He created us. Even though our soul urges us to do this, we are distracted by our ego, the self-centered, materialistic perspective rooted in the body. The ego rejects having to listen to anyone – even our Creator. The ego pressures us to let it have free rein to pursue physical pleasure and materialism. When we listen to our ego at the expense of our soul, we are led off course. This causes pain to our soul as its intended destination – coming close to God – recedes into the distance.

Challenges help us get back on track by deflating the ego; we are humbled when we admit that we were not able to prevent or quickly remedy a troubling situation. With the distracting bravado of the ego suppressed, we can better hear the voice of our soul, which calls out to us to return to God.

Nobody goes through life – or even a single day – without difficulties. The question is do we learn from our challenges how desperately we need God? Do we humble ourselves before Him and ask for His help?

Do not wait until you have exhausted all other venues. As soon as you have a challenge, ask God for help. Just the act of expressing to Him your pain and asking for His guidance, will bring you closer to Him.

Learning humility from adversity is only the first step to coming closer to God. The second is using humility to unconditionally accept His will. With humility – knowing our limitations – we acknowledge that only our Creator knows what we need to fulfill our life’s purpose. Since we do not know what is truly good for us and He does, we unconditionally accept His will.

Accepting the will of our Creator means trusting that God, who is guiding our lives, is doing what is best for us even though we do not understand how. We do not resign ourselves to a situation; rather, with total confidence in Him, we make peace with the way things are, even as we work toward a better tomorrow.

The seeming senselessness of a difficulty or tragedy can hinder accepting a situation. In truth, there is a Divine reason behind everything. Even though you do not understand the reason behind challenges, make adversity meaningful for you by using difficulties as a catalyst for lasting change. Use the pain in your life and in the lives of others as a reminder to go beyond the ego and self-centered behavior, to (A) alleviate pain, and (B) become a force of healing:

Between you and your fellow man: (A) Alleviate the pain you may have caused others – emotional or financial – by apologizing and making amends. (B) Bring healing, by reaching out with emotional and material support to those who are struggling.

Between you and God: (A) Alleviate the pain of your soul by letting go of pursuits which pull you away from God. (B) Bring healing, by coming closer to your Creator through fervent prayer, Torah study, and living His Torah as best you can.

While maintaining hope in God’s infinite ability to turn around even a dire situation, cultivate an attitude of unconditionally accepting His will. Rely on God and trust that the way your life is right now is exactly the way it is currently meant to be. Allow yourself to let go of resisting or rejecting your challenges and ease into a state of accepting your difficulties the way they are. When you have this mindset regarding a life challenge, you trust that:

The challenge is from God for your eternal benefit.

Part of fulfilling your life’s purpose is doing what you can to overcome and grow from the difficulty.

God is with you, giving you the strength and courage you need to triumph.

Acceptance building exercise

Think of a challenging issue – start with a mild one – and tune into any resistance you feel to having this issue. Say or think to yourself, “This is from God for my eternal benefit.” Then think while slowly breathing in, “This is God’s will” and while slowly breathing out, “I let go of resistance” or, “I accept this.” Do this for a few breath cycles until you feel calmer and more accepting of the situation.

The irony is that reaching a state of acceptance – surrendering to and embracing God’s will – unlocks the gates of our personal redemption. Perhaps not in the way we imagined, but at that point, the specific outcome no longer matters; we will feel swept up into our Father’s arms and carried by Him. The weight of our previous concerns will have melted away. “Cast your burden on God, and He will carry you…(Psalms 55:23)” We never know where, but God will carry us; where, is no longer a concern, because, “God is with me, I have no fear…(Psalms 118:6).”

There is an exquisite dynamic God uses to bring us closer to Him, if we are willing. When we allow our challenges to change us, then adversity will lead to humility, which will lead to accepting God’s will, which will lead to transcendence – finding refuge in the shelter of God’s protection.

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