Some people choose to get frustrated by many circumstances in life. Otherwise simply choose to ask, “What is expected of me?”
We probably know by now that we don’t get to choose what happens to us. We do get to choose what we make happen. And that is how there is Devine Providence, G-d brings things into our lives but there is also freedom of choice, our power to choose. And there’s one thing within our realm of choice which is very powerful and can make an enormous difference in the way we experience life and that is the choice between focusing on what I expect or focusing on what is expected of me. That little choice can make an enormous difference between a life of joy and happiness and a life of frustration and disappointment.
There’s a beautiful story with the Alter Rebbe, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of the Liadi, the first of the seven Chabad Rebbes. He had a Chassid, a follower, who he knew very well, as his followers would always speak with him about their personal challenges and issues. And this particular follower was actually a very unique individual because he exemplified what it meant to be a Hassidic Jew. He was a very devout and pious individual and at the same time he was very successful in business. And this was beautiful because he was able to merge the world of G-dliness with the physical world, the world of action, the world of business. And he was able to bring the beauty of his G-dliness and his values into the very mundane world.
However, sometimes the wheel of fortune turns and that’s what happened with him. And it turned and he lost a lot of his money. He actually went into debt and he actually made some promises to people that he would give them certain amounts of money and help them out with different things and now he couldn’t keep — he couldn’t honor his word. And so he came to his master, Rebbe Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, and in the private audience with him he really poured out his soul. And he said, You know, I lost all of my money and that doesn’t bother me so much, he said, but what bothers me is that I made commitments that I can’t keep, that I have daughters that I would like to marry and I don’t even have the money to marry them off. And he said, Rebbe, please help me, give me a blessing so that I have what I need.
And the Alter Rebbe, having a very deep connection with this man and knowing the depth of this man responded to him after a moment of thought in a very profound way and he said to this man, he said, You speak only of what you need but you make no mention of what you are needed for.
Essentially, what he was telling this Chassid was, you are telling me about what you expect, what is expected of you, what G-d expects of you. You make no mention of what you are needed for. And the man, being the deep man he was realized how he got so lost in his own reality because of his loss of money that he completely lost awareness of anything else going on and he fainted when these words struck him.
He aroused, he was aroused from his faint and he took these words to heart. And he spent a few weeks re-orienting himself with his personal purpose, what G-d put him in this world for. And it was after a few weeks that the Alter Rebbe called him back to meet him again and he said, Let me give you a blessing. And at that point he gave him a blessing and things changed for him.
This is a very powerful story because it reminds us that the more we spend our lives focusing on what we expect, the more unhappy we actually are. And the more we focus on what is expected of us, what G-d expects of us, which is why he made us in the unique way he did giving us the gifts that we have, that is where we find tremendous meaning and purpose and happiness. Many things happen in our lives which we don’t expect. And what we need to learn is that all of the things that happen to us, especially the things that we don’t expect, are always speaking to us. It’s actually G-d speaking to us through all of the events in our lives, including the ones that we don’t expect. And it’s G-d directing us through those events. And paying attention to those events can be life changing for us because from them we learn what is expected of us.
When we find ourselves in a challenging relationship, very often it offers us an enormous opportunity to discover a greater depth within ourselves, where we can discover that we have to go deeper within ourselves and become more profound people. And when we get deeper, the challenges in the relationship very often go away. It’s a gift. It’s a painful gift. It’s a challenging gift. It’s not a gift any of us are going to pray for. But it is a gift. Because only through such events do we really discover the full depth of who we are.
So a life focused on what we expect creates a lot of frustration. It creates frustration not only for us but it creates frustration for the people around us. Because when we are frustrated, we bring that upon everyone that is around us.
And so we don’t ask G-d ever to give us difficulties. But when the unexpected strikes, we must remember that it’s there deliberately. It’s there because there is an opportunity hiding behind it. And we need to look for that opportunity.
There is an interesting incident with a Rabbi Segal, a very prominent Rabbi who would often be requested by the Rebbe to go on different missions for him. Because this Rabbi Segal would travel all around the world, and the Rebbe having connections all throughout the world would want him to, when he was traveling to certain places, to do certain things for him. And he said one time after a particularly difficult request that the Rebbe had made from him, which actually was very challenging for him, he came back and he told the Rebbe, I accomplished what you had asked me to but I want you to know that it was very difficult. And the Rebbe looked at him and the Rebbe said, Since when do you have a contract with the All Mighty to have an easy life?
And Rabbi Segal said this was very very moving for him and something that really touched him deeply and something he will never ever forget. And that is that we are not put in this world to have an easy life. We hope to have an easy life and it’s a big blessing to have an easy life but sometimes, sometimes it’s an even bigger blessing to have certain difficulties in our life. Because behind those difficulties lies a depth that only someone who works through such challenges will discover. And when G-d gives us that challenge, it’s G-d speaking to us and it’s G-d telling us you can do this and that’s why I am giving it to you.
And so the next time any of us have a challenge, this is what we should say to ourselves, we should say to ourselves, I can do this. If this is what G-d is giving me, I know this is what is expected of me. This may be very hard but I know there’s a gem in here. The gem may not be a gem for me but it’s a gem for someone, it’s a gem for someone. This may not be the life I expected, but it is surely the life that is expected of me. That is focusing on the most important thing, the reason why G-d put me here. And the more I focus on what is expected of me, the more meaningful my life will be and the happier my life will be.