Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come? — Lamentations 3:38
The Hebrew language is steeped in meaning. Words that are similar teach us lessons. One such example is the Hebrew word for “world,” olam. The word olam is nearly identical to the word ilaym, which means “hidden.” This is because our world is filled with hiddenness. Reality is cloaked by superficial appearances, and things aren’t always what they seem. What seems good might actually be bad, while what seems bad is ultimately good.
The trick is to maintain a faith perspective. When we have faith, we understand that no matter how bad thing may appear, things are always good because everything comes from God. As we read in the book of Lamentations: “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” God gives the orders for all things that happen, and if it comes from God it has to be good – even if it doesn’t seem that way.
It’s interesting that from the very beginning of our lives, we experience this hiddenness, this confusion. Consider childbirth. For most of history, and often enough today, the mother is screaming in pain. Perhaps there are complications and a cesarean section is performed. If we didn’t know better, we would think a terrible thing was taking place!
And think about it from the baby’s perspective. The baby goes from being safe and protected in the mother’s dark warm womb and then suddenly there is pressure and contractions, until the baby is forced out into a cold world with lights so bright it can hardly see. No wonder the baby cries!
It’s only because we understand that a baby is being given life through these circumstances that we can understand that what looks bad is actually good. Yet, we need to take this perspective throughout our entire lives. We need to know that everything we experience is good.
I love these verses from Psalms: “Surely the righteous will never be shaken . . . They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (112:6–7). The righteous don’t fear “bad” news because they know in their hearts that nothing is truly bad. They recognize that everything comes from God.
But how can we keep our hearts steadfast when going through crisis?
Rabbi Nachman (18th century) taught that we must use our mouths to declare our faith. Even just saying “I believe” will give us strength to keep going with faith. I want to encourage us all to speak words of faith to ourselves and to others. Let’s declare that no matter how things seem, we know that God is in control and has a good plan for us and for the world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President