Overcoming Obstacles

June 11, 2012 - 5:00 am

”In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” — Job 1:1

Israel’s Moran Samuel made her country proud when she won the gold medal at the international rowing competition in Italy earlier this spring. She made us even prouder when she sang Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikva, on her own.

Apparently, the Italians did not have a copy of the right recording. When Moran realized that there would be no anthem played as she received her award, she asked for the microphone and simply began singing it herself, completely cool and collected.

When Moran was interviewed by the news shortly afterwards, she had this to say:  “If you look at an obstacle as an obstacle, there’s a good chance it will knock you down. If you look at an obstacle as a challenge, then you’ll do the maximum to overcome it. There can be small challenges, like the anthem and me taking the mic and singing, and there can be bigger challenges.” She should know. She’s been paralyzed from the chest down since she was 24.

Life comes with plenty of challenges and how we see them is critical. In the book of Job, Job and his friends spent all of their time and energy asking the question, “Why?” Why was Job being punished?

The reader already knows – and Job himself insisted – that Job did nothing wrong at all! “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

Job was not being punished; he was being tested. Job and his friends had the wrong perspective and it cost Job dearly. He could have experienced his trying time cool, collected, and empowered. Instead he felt helpless, hopeless, and abandoned.

This is why Jewish tradition teaches that the correct response to challenging times is to ask, “what?” not “why.” What can I do to be a better person? What can I do to overcome this challenge? What does God want from me now? These questions are empowering and helpful. They lead a person out of their darkness and back into the light.

Asking “why” leads down a dead-end road. Can anyone really ever know why God sends them a particular circumstance? Are we arrogant enough to think that we can understand God’s ways? While difficult times are certainly worthy of introspection, they are not helped by dwelling on guilt.

Asking “why” traps us in our sorrow and self-pity. Asking “what” helps us move on.


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