The methods involved in transforming the chaos in our lives to opportunity are not new ideas - my sources for this lesson were written over 200 years ago! Even though the words were written centuries ago, it is though they were authored specifically for the times we are living in right now. Coronavirus has everyone in a panic, fear is spreading through society, and no one is doing the one thing they need to do: looking for God in the situation. The most common verse in the Torah is “Do not fear!” yet everyone today is allowing fear to run their lives. How can we make the switch from chaos to opportunity in times like these?
Rabbi Nachman’s teachings tell us that everything in the world is there for the sake of our free will as well as to test us. It is easy to say “God is good” when things are going well, the true test of our emunah comes during times of strife. Remember, your creator never abandons you, he conceals himself from you so that you seek him out. Baal Shem Tov says when you experience afflictions you should recognize God is behind the mask. When a father plays with his son and dons a scary mask, his son is frightened and calls out for him. The father reveals himself to his son and comforts him. So too does your creator hide so that you will seek him.
Our current environment is a perfect opportunity for you to practice emunah and recognize God in all things. Concentrate on seeing God behind the mask, not on the mask itself. Remember that things must often get worse before they get better, just as God created darkness before he made light. When you are able to see God in everything, you will only have Him to fear and he will illuminate the opportunity in all things for you.
So many people today are preoccupied with time - they have too little time, the pandemic is taking too much time, people in their lives aren’t acting in a timely manner. This preoccupation with time is indicative of a lack of consciousness. The more a person is pressed for time the more deficient his intellect, for a person with great intellect focuses on the present and is not concerned with the future or the past. When you tell a child it will be a four hour drive to Disney World, in their minds this may as well be a year! Similarly, an adult lacking consciousness is consumed with anxiety over the future and regret over the past, missing out on the opportunities of the present.
Where does negativity come from? Negativity is an accumulation of psychological time and a denial of the present. Fear and anxiety stem from a preoccupation with the future, and grief and depression result in a preoccupation with the past. The more you are bothered by these negative emotions the more you need to work on your consciousness. Why does time fly when you are having fun? Because you are not thinking about time, you are fully focused on the present moment! God exists beyond time and space, these limitations do not exist to him. They only bother you because you are subject to them, but if you practice emunah you are tapped into a source of power that transcends all limitations including time and space.
Another important idea when it comes to creating opportunity from chaos is mistakes are part of the process. Hashem created and destroyed 974 worlds before he made this one. You need to get comfortable with the process of destruction and rebuilding, as this is the method by which your vessel is constructed. Once you are comfortable with being uncomfortable you are much less bothered by things and can keep your focus on your purpose and your next endeavor.
Time Magazine did a study and concluded the happiest people on earth share a common trait: resilience. Resilient people rise quickly from a fall, they do not let themselves get bogged down in despair. When we resist pain it turns to suffering, and when we do not give meaning to suffering it becomes despair. When you have despair you are sending out the message “God, get away from me!” You avoid despair by embracing pain and using it as a lesson and a motivator. Remember, pain exists in your life as an opportunity for growth.
Often when we are getting started in something new things seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Why is this the case? It is all part of God’s plan, vessels need to break so they can be expanded and rebuilt. God created broken vessels in order for man to be able to go through Tikkun. He left the job unfinished for us so that we may have purpose. Destruction and rebuilding is the model for life; God creates breakage in order for him to realign things in our lives.
Everyone enters this world blind until God opens their eyes. This is why we find ourselves face to face with the solution to our problems, yet we cannot see it. We have to ask God to open our eyes and bless us with perspective in our lives. When we surrender and leave things up to Hashem, our troubles are transformed into light and the answer we seek is illuminated. This is all that our creator wants from us, to surrender and put our faith in Him.
This is the ultimate goal in any chaotic situation - surrender! When you are lost, having tried every conceivable solution for your problems, surrender control and your creator will change your trouble into Zohar. In order to surrender, you must connect to humility and give up your power to Hashem. It is written “Anyone who makes the name of Heaven a partner in his distress doubles his livelihood.” Most people respond to a problem with a complaint, but a man who thanks God for a stressful situation makes their creator a partner in the distress. Therefore for his own sake Hashem will illuminate the opportunity in the distress for you so the situation can be remedied and the blessings received. This is why it is so upsetting when I see people running away from their problems in today’s society - they are running from opportunity!
Our emunah and our stories are inversely related: when our emunah falls we have more and more stories and excuses about our failures, when our emunah rises our excuses lessen as we take action and capitalize on the opportunities within the distress and chaos. Now more than ever we are faced with an environment from which great opportunity can be taken advantage of if we embrace the pain and make Hashem our partner in the calamity. Faith is all about thinking bigger than your current circumstances, so stop binding your mind to limitations and build up your emunah so you can capitalize on all the opportunities around you!