In life, there are many doors that are going to open for us, but in order for one door to open, another must first close. When we are faced with a door that has closed to us is when it is important to have faith and trust that Hashem has closed that door for good reason - he has something better for us in store. It is said that faith is developed at night, not in the day, as darkness is the true test of our emuna.
People today are so focused on learning Torah yet they don’t spend any time learning or building their emuna. Guess what - all the knowledge of Torah in the world won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have emuna! People are operating under a false belief that so long as they worry about a situation, no bad will come to them because they are keeping their focus right on the issue. However, by worrying about the situation they are displaying doubt, and doubt is the opposite of emuna. Instead they should be displaying trust and demonstrating their emuna. Why should you have doubt or worry if you have faith in Hashem?
In order to change these behaviors, and indeed the thoughts that lead to them, we must go deep and change our beliefs. I can say to you that prayer is the greatest thing in the world, but until you believe it your thoughts and behavior won’t change and you won’t put forth more effort towards prayer. If you are looking to change a behavior, dig deep and find the belief which is leading to that behavior and work on changing the belief!
If a person believes Hashem is out to harm them, they will run and hide from any obstacle as they view things in life as a threat. If you instead believe Hashem is only interested in helping you grow and succeed, you will face obstacles head on, recognizing them as challenges and opportunities for growth and advancement in life. Take some time to reflect on your behavior in your daily life - are you demonstrating fear or faith?
So what is the big issue we are all having with emuna today? Remember, if you don’t have emuna nothing is going to work out for you because emuna is what brings the rain that nourishes all things. You can pray all you want but without emuna you are cut off from shefa and your prayers will be meaningless. How do we lose our emuna? We first lose faith in ourselves, and then a loss of faith in Hashem follows. We lose faith in ourselves when we dwell on our failures and take them personally, and if we do not have faith in ourselves we cannot have faith in Hashem.
Everyone has problems in life, but we all have tremendous blessings as well. If we choose to focus on the problems rather than the blessings, complaining rather than expressing gratitude, we are indicating there is an injustice in the world. We cannot have emuna if we believe there is injustice in our world, so our problems grow and our blessings shrink! Instead of complaining, thank Hashem for all He has given you, problems and blessings alike. This shows a belief there is justice in the world, and will build your emuna.
A prayer needs truth in order to rise up, and if we believe there is injustice in the world we have lost emuna, we are lacking in truth, and our prayers are worthless as they cannot rise. Rabbi Nachman teaches us the importance of digging down deep within ourselves and seeing where we are in our faith and how we are dealing with our challenges. He tells us the entire purpose of our soul’s descent to this world is for us to get to know Hashem. It is much easier to thank someone you know well than a stranger, so how can we demonstrate our gratitude effectively to Hashem if we are not seeking to know Him better?
If a person does not consistently exercise their emuna, eventually they will be overtaken by anxiety and depression as our emuna atrophies like a muscle left unused. Hashem wants us to constantly be vulnerable and dependent on him, so our emuna should be called upon each and every day if we are truly at His mercy. Usually a person does not do any sort of introspection or reflection on themselves and their spirituality unless they have experienced a setback. Hashem therefore uses setbacks to compel us to seek him out and get closer to Him, as we are apt to grow lax in our attempts to grow closer to Hashem when things are good.
Remember, you will never see the light of God if you do not have emuna. Any time you find yourself stuck in a place in life it is due to your having lost emuna. So what do we do in these instances? We must beg Hashem to restore our emuna. Rabbi Nachman teaches us it is not enough to simply pray for emuna, we must accept our problems and thank Hashem for them before anything will change. A lack of acceptance is another indication of injustice, and remember, when we believe there is injustice in the world our prayers are ineffective. We should therefore root our prayers in gratitude and not in complaints!
We need to examine the problems in our lives and assign them new meaning in order to feel gratitude for them, understanding the purpose behind the problems so we may move past them. Complaining about your problems is akin to hiding from them, and you should be approaching your problems so you may learn, grow, and build your vessel. Problems are opportunities to build emuna, and emuna is what builds our vessels. So look at your problems in life with a new perspective and find the purpose behind them so you can build the vessel and move on!
If things always came to us easily, we would not appreciate them and we would never be satisfied. Rabbi Nachman teaches us the path to Hashem is like a garden overgrown with thorns and thistles. It is our job to go into the garden every day and prune back the thorns and thistles, clearing our path to our creator.
Look at the questions you are asking in your prayers to Hashem. You should ask questions that lead to good, rather than questions that lead to bad. When we ask better questions we get better answers, so rather than asking your creator why he has placed a problem in your life, ask that He help you see the silver lining in what seems to be a bad situation. Then your perspective will change, you will discover the purpose behind the problem, and you will overcome and move forward.
We all need to get accustomed to dealing with thorns in our lives, as they are just a fact of life. We cannot have a rose without the thorns, so better to learn to handle the thorns so you can get to the rose! How can we get out of a bad situation more quickly? By singing and praising God. A prayer becomes a question when it rises, but praise does not become a question it simply rises.
You need to eliminate any complaining or talk of injustice in your life if you want to build emuna. Our souls know what we should do, it is our emotions and intellect that get in the way and exhaust us. If we have no emuna, our minds are full and will distract us and prevent us from taking action. This is a world of action, not a world of thought! Action is what converts emuna into trust - if you have a vision but no decision, that is not trust. Until you do something about your vision, you are not demonstrating trust.
There will always be a specific amount of thorns you will have to get through before you arrive at the rose. The thorns are there to protect the rose from those people who are unworthy of receiving it. Apropos, you have to work on your emuna every single day. The ultimate goal in our lives is for us to see our creator, and we accomplish this through emuna. Belief is the key for shefa to come to us, so if we don’t have belief we block the shefa and it goes against us to the other side.
Living in the present is a requirement for us to have emuna as well. Anxiety is centered in future thinking, so if we are worried about the future we are not in the present and we end up with anxiety rather than emuna. Ask yourself how much of each day you spend truly inhabiting the present as opposed to worrying about the future?
What should a person do when they have distress in their life? It is said whoever makes Hashem a partner in their distress will get double the bounty from above. How do we make our creator a partner in our distress? By thanking him for it! If we thank Hashem for a problem rather than complain about the problem we make him a partner in the distress and he will remedy it for His sake as well as our own.
The number of false, negative beliefs we have is determined by our lack of emuna. We see people in a great deal of emotional turmoil and mental anguish in society today - this is because of a loss of emuna which has caused them to develop false beliefs. Until a person builds their emuna back up, they will continue to see everything in life as a threat and their anxiety will only get worse. If you change your beliefs and work to build your emuna, your anxiety will evaporate. Exit the mind, enter the moment, and have faith in Hashem!