Monday, January 31, 2011

Why is Life so Difficult?

I got this as an email and am amazed at how it fits so well into the topic of pain and the question I'm in middle of answering.

Financial worries, health issues, trouble with children, in law problems, marital conflicts...the list seem endless. One of the questions a thinking person should ask is why? Why is life so hard? Why are there so many issues, worries and anxieties that afflict man? And worse it doesn't stop. Just when things are starting to move smoothly, something else pops up-and undoes it all. It almost seems orchestrated. The perplexing part is that we aren't talking about wicked individuals. We're talking about good people. People who do what they should be doing-and yet they suffer in very real ways. The question we need to ask is why?

We accept that Hashem is more giving and loving than any person we could ever imagine or envision. And Hashem is very capable. Hashem could have easily made man very differently. Hashem could have made life very differently, and there wouldn't be any suffering. Not a little, not a lot-none. And so the question that begs being asked is why. Why is life so difficult? Why does it seem to be so hard?

To understand this we need a different perspective of life.

Progressive weight training

A rather yeshivishe fellow went to a power-lifting gym to learn how to work out. As a kid, he had little experience with sports and was clearly out of his element. Recognizing this, the coach showed him various exercises and worked closely with him.

One day this fellow was overheard saying, "That coach, I don't know what's with him. Every time I get the exercise right, he goes and adds more weight to the bar. What's wrong with him?"

The point this fellow missed was that progressive weight training is all about increasing the load. The goal of the activity is to coax the body to grow. By gradually increasing the work load, the body is called upon to respond. The work should never be easy. The nature of the activity is to incrementally increase the demand placed on the body, thereby causing it to grow.

This is a good parable because in life we are put into many situations. If a person doesn't understand why he is on this planet, he will have many questions. Why does it seem that there is a never ending stream of difficult situations? Why is it that when I finally get things under control, a whole new set of circumstances arises that sets everything out of kilter? Why can't life just be easy?

The point that he is missing is the very purpose of life. Hashem put us on this planet to grow. Many of the challenges and situations are given to us specifically for that reason. It isn't by accident, and it isn't because Hashem doesn't pay attention. Quite the opposite, these situations were hand-designed to demand from us. They are catalysts to change who we are.

In weight training, the movement of the bar isn't the significant part; the demand on the body is. So too in life, the situations I face are far less significant than my reactions to them. Who I become is a result of my attitude and the way I handle my challenges.

The end result is that life is beautiful, but it isn't a walk in the park. A life properly led will have moments of doubt, pain, and confusion. That doesn't mean that we are on the wrong path, and it doesn't mean that life doesn't make sense. Quite the opposite, if life is going too smoothly, it's a bad sign. Since the purpose of life is to grow, we need the challenges of life to help us reach our potential.


  1. These are beautiful and poignant words.

    It reminds me of a saying, that if you walk towards G-d, He will run towards you.

  2. I agree that we need challenges to grow. But if life goes smoothly...that's bad? I don't know...

  3. HY-thanks. That's a great saying and so true!

    MW-I hear you. I didn't write this article but maybe you can look at it this way. I don't know if a day can go by in anyone's life without a single thing going wrong. I'm not saying to be a pessimist but I'm talking about little annoyances.

    If 40 days go by and a person did not have a single thing go wrong, they have to check, maybe they're a rasha, a wicked person and Hashem doesn't want to have anything to do with them. But there's no such thing! Everyone has little things that don't work out. Like taking a dime instead of a quarter out so you can pay the meter (not this week though - yay!! :-D).

    Maybe it means that if things were 100% smooth it's a bad sign.

  4. What if someone SEES everything as going smoothly evn if its not?


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