Even Stress Can Be Good

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We need to appreciate Hashem’s kindness at all times, under all circumstances”.

The Torah commands (Devarim 26:11) – Hashem wants us to be happy with all the goodness He bestows upon us. Later, we read (28:47), “because you did not serve Hashem, your Gd, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant.” It also states in Tehillim (100:20), “Hashem wants us to serve Him with joy.”

Feeling happy and content is beneficial. Anger, anxiety, stress, and envy wear down the body and can cause health problems. Happiness is the best medicine. Research has shown that joyous people have less of a chance of suffering heart attacks, and are more likely to have healthy blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, and proper weight management. Happiness strengthens the immune system, boosts energy levels, and helps diminish pain. Psychologists and doctors have written extensively about the benefits of humor and laughter. We know, however, that cracking a few jokes and enjoying entertainment are just quick fixes and won’t bring enduring, long-lasting joy.

The Torah gives us ways of achieving true happiness, under all circumstances. The pasuk states (Kohelet 7:14), “be pleased on a day when things go well,” and the commentators explain this to mean that on a good day, when things are going well, when one feels healthy and his life is in order, he should feel grateful. He should thank Hashem and recognize the great blessings he has: the family is healthy, he is at peace with his friends, he has enough money for his needs, and so on. When a person appreciates all that he has, he feels joyous. Even when one experiences challenge, he could still be happy. Chazal teach us that everything Hashem does is good, and therefore the current situation must also be good. We must constantly remind ourselves of how kind Hashem is, and that one day we will see how even the seemingly negative situations we faced were, in fact, beneficial.

It states in Iyov (5:7), “Man was born to toil”; this is a world of hard work. Everyone must face a degree of physical, mental, and emotional stress. However, this stress can come in many different ways. Sometimes, the pressure we face is due to the problems of other people whom we want to help.

Rabbi Fishel Schachter said he was once called late on a Friday afternoon with a request to speak on behalf of an organization that Shabbat. The person said they were given permission to make an appeal at a very wealthy synagogue during seudat shelisheet, but the speech could only be for three minutes.  Although he didn’t have much time to prepare, the rabbi accepted. That night, he was tossing on his bed trying to think of the perfect words to help the organization. His wife asked him why he agreed to speak, as it was ruining his Shabbat. The rabbi answered that everyone has to have sleepless nights in their lives – some have tooth pain, some are waiting up worried about their children – and he would rather his worry be regarding what to speak about than the alternatives.

When a person has a reason to feel down and dejected, there is a Torah way of looking at his situation, and just a small change in his mindset can make all the difference between happiness and sorrow.

We need to appreciate Hashem’s kindness at all times, under all circumstances. When life is going smoothly, we need to appreciate Hashem’s hesed. Even when we hit bumps in the road, we still need to appreciate the hesed. When we feel overburdened by our efforts to help Am Yisrael, we must appreciate the hesed then, as well.