Wisdom and Suffering

Rivka Olenick


"When a person suffers any type of misfortune, he/she should use it as a cue to arouse his/her improvement." Chovos Halvovos Brochos 5a; 7:6.

We should do everything possible to protect ourselves and avoid unnecessary suffering and psychological harm. First we have to make the effort and try to understand what suffering means. When you think of suffering, you equate it with fear and you imagine that all kinds of terrible situations will confront you. Setback and tragedy are part of life yet the outcome of one's suffering can prove to be very beneficial for a person. Sooner or later each person confronts - but can hopefully endure - their trial of suffering. A person who cannot accept their trial is very unfortunate because they will have gained nothing. Chazal say that God created the world and it is good, that only good comes from God and what happens in the world is for the ultimate good. These ideas are not easy to internalize when one is suffering and in the middle of a crisis or a personal tragedy. Nevertheless, the approach in understanding suffering should be a philosophical one. By allowing your mind and heart to be open to wisdom suffering can open the door to profound joy and may prove to be a great blessing, believe it or not.

When a crisis occurs a person feels they lost control of their life. Many people become depressed and anxious when they are suffering. They find it hard to focus on study or prayer and/or their livelihood and they feel alienated from their family and friends. This suffering produces uncertainty, which is scary. Many people feel lost and can't figure out what to do. If suffering entraps you, first you should look into your life and examine it closely. Seek practical guidance or advice from someone you trust and who is willing to help you feel grounded. Feel positive and optimistic if you don't rebel against God because of your suffering, because that itself is a high level and a very good starting point.

Rather than acquiring more possessions, a person should think about acquiring more wisdom. Make an investment in your peace of mind. How can acquiring wisdom help a person through suffering? Wisdom can significantly help a person accept their suffering. Acceptance is extremely important. Acquiring wisdom is for anyone who can understand a concept contained in an idea. Engage yourself in thinking about and exploring the concepts and ideas that are based on wisdom. Do this by making time to learn and acquire. Study the great ideas contained in Pirkei Avos, Psalms, Mishlei, and Horeb, the list is endless, but first you should make an attempt. Ask your friends and family what they have read that has been helpful to them. Your Rav may have a list of books for you to read - all you have to do is ask. In the meantime, become more introspective about your life even if things are "ok." Maybe things can be a lot better. We shouldn't simply rely on the fact that "everything is in God's hands." Although this is true, we are still expected to do as much as we can for ourselves in fulfilling our purpose and using all of our potential in life. When we do this we continue to grow so that we can meet the difficult challenges that will find its way into our lives. Don't rely on anyone else to remove your suffering for you. It is more beneficial to be introspective with the right guidance, which can bring about your own peace of mind. Most people's sufferings are based on false illusions or denial. Situations which produce a negative outcome, are mostly caused by faulty thinking. Often people are fooled into thinking that life means continuous and uninterrupted pleasure and so when reality interrupts, a person feels they are truly suffering. This is when acquired wisdom truly comes in very handy. So persevere, and ask for God's assistance through honest, meaningful prayer.

Suffering is a great teacher. Suffering teaches you the limitations of your power; it reminds you of the frailty of your health, the instability of your possessions, and the inadequacy of your means which have only been lent to you and must be returned as soon as the Owner (God) desires it. Suffering visits you and teaches you the nothingness of your false greatness. It teaches you modesty. Horeb, Vol. I pg. 36

"All the days of the unwise are unhappy ones." Chovos Halvovos 4:5

Philosophy | Tnach | New Postings | JewishTimes | Audio Archives | Suggested Reading | Live Classes | Search | Letters | Q&A's | Community Action | Volunteer | Links | Education | Chat | Banners | Classifieds | Advertise | Donate | Donors | About Us | Press | Contacts | Home


Mesora website designed by NYDesign.com
© 2003 Mesora of New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Articles may be reprinted without permission.