Pain and Prayer

No one is beyond the touch of pain and it is impossible to quantify the levels of someone else’s suffering. Every time we turn on the news, listen to the other people’s grief, or mourn our losses, we are reminded once again how difficult life is. As we try to live meaningfully in a world of conflicting values ,we are constantly reminded about how hard life can be.

I’m talking about when life is just beating you down.  The events that take place around us  can affect us and some on some days, they nearly break us. It’s hard to find joy when people are hurting, whether it’s job loss, a loved one with a critical illness or stress everywhere we turn.

It’s not easy is it? 

In fact, some days it’s nearly impossible.  We journey though life seeking meaning and a sense of belonging. We want to make a difference but on occasion we feel broken and cannot cope. Too many responsibilities, work, families, relationships, and our goals for happiness and success.

So how does a Jew navigate life? How do we exemplify joy, even when life is hard?

The ability to find joy and hope when we are faced with times of pain, loss or uncertainty, is a survival skill we all need to gain. If we understand that it is a skill, then we are blessed with the ability to practice. We can choose to look for the silver lining in every cloud, so that if a disaster does happen, we can find the positive, manage our own emotions, and support those around us.

Da’agah belev ish yashchenah, vedavar tov yesamchenah

“Anxiety in the heart of a person causes dejection, but a good word will turn it into joy.”

(Proverbs 12:25).

Prayer can ground us, help us control our thoughts and fears and enable us to effectively manage our emotions and stress. With our prayers we clear the mind and bring ourselves to a place of clarity, allowing us to let go of everything but the present moment. By focusing on the here and now, we can release the anxiety and doubt that plague us.

In prayer, we turn our scattered thoughts to G-d. We are acknowledging the past, present and future. By connecting with G-d and accepting our humanity and belief in a greater purpose, we remove the fears of the then and now. Prayer guides our understanding that we are limited in our ability to effect matters outside of our control.

We can pray for guidance yet within our prayers we hold gratitude for the blessings that take for granted. If we remember to thank G-d for our good fortune, then the act of praying itself can ground us even within our times of misery and despair.

Although we cannot control everything around us, we have the power to see the positives in our lives. Living with negativity and mental anguish are soul destroying, and take away our freedom to choose a happy life. We do not always see the results that we are praying for however the action of removing ourselves from our worries for a little bit, can have far-reaching effects on the way we react to these situations.

The prayers of Shacharit, said in the morning comprise of many blessings of thanks. It is no coincidence that if we take time to pray when we wake up, we can effectively set our mood for the day and the brachot (blessings) of gratitude remind us to look for the brighter side of every situation.

By focusing on our prayers we can let go of the stress in our individual lives. When we listen as we say thank you for our daily blessings, we can take this time of tfila (prayer) and use it as a springboard as we search for happiness. Finding joy in times of trouble is not an easy thing to do, but by taking time to pray, we can step outside of our stress and embrace optimism and gratitude in our quest for inner peace.

About the Author
Abi Taylor-Abt is an outstanding Jewish Educator and Curriculum Developer who has worked in the field of Jewish Primary and Secondary Educational Curriculum Development for over twenty years. She is the author of Lessons in Jewish Learning - a grab and go curriculum for communities and Jewish schools. Originally from London, Abi spent time living in Israel, South Africa, England and the United States. After working in Boise, Idaho, Abi spent 5 years in Israel for the second time whilst her children served in the army. She is currently Director of Education for Yachad a combined educational endeavour between the conservative congregation of Beth Shalom and the reform community of Temple Emanu-El in Michigan, USA. A 2018 recipient of the Klein/Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Abi is also awaiting the video version of her recent ELI Talk Detroit Speaker Fellowship.