More than anything, one of the strongest themes I’ve seen come out of the last two and a half years of my life is one of coping. Coping in tough times is one of the biggest challenges that we all face in our lives at one stage or another. Those that cope better achieve more, jumping on positive change faster and moving on from negative change easier. The one constant is change itself, and even more so for a baal teshuva.
What I’ve experienced is three-fold: 1. Those with stronger self-esteem cope better, 2. Those with strong community ties cope better, 3. Those that truly believe in Hashem cope better.
And in many ways, all of these three are a product of being an observant Jew (generally speaking of course). Judaism is the framework which focuses on these exact three areas: man and man, man and his fellow man, and man and Hashem. If we were to learn and internalise the lessons taught in each of these areas, then we would in effect be developing ourselves to cope better.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get the self esteem foundation from my family, have latched onto a very caring community, and have been able to build my emuna through Torah learning. I am so thankful for these things as I truly believe it was what made the last two years and four months bearable. In fact, it was what made the last two years and four months worthwhile. I remember the relief I felt when these three elements came together and I no longer felt sorry for myself or my situation. I just felt happy. Free, at least emotionally.
In contrast, I watched people very close to me who do not have that last important element, the belief in Hashem, and they did and still do suffer for it. When you don’t have emuna you think it’s all in your hands, it’s all up to you. You are the judge, jury, and executor. Either you act or you suffer. How stressful that is! How much pressure that causes! How vengeful do you become! When you have emuna the need to act gets some perspective. Yes, you do need to try to fix things, but you also learn that no matter what, it will turn out right. Hashem has your best interests in mind. More so, it’s exactly because He has your best interests in mind that you are going through what you’re going through. So you act but with peace in your heart. And when it’s all over and you get past the challenge you can look back and smile. Not just because it’s over, but also at how well you coped. That is the true achievement in any challenge.
May you never have difficult challenges, but if you do, may you have the self-esteem, community and emuna to go through it with peace.