In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name. — Psalm 33:21
In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.
A sad but true reality is that nothing threatens a person’s bond with God more than going through hard times. The number one reason that people leave their faith is because they have gone through a tragedy. They are left bitter, disillusioned, and with a deep sadness.
But there is a flipside to this progression. The same tragedy that can drive us further from God is the very thing that can carry us home to Him — if we let it. When we understand the purpose of difficulties, we can utilize them to bring us closer to God and also to joy.
Psalm 33 is all about how we ride the waves of life. In fact, the number 33 in Hebrew is expressed by the letter lamed, which equals 30, and the letter gimmel, which is equivalent to three. Written in reverse, 33 spells gal, the Hebrew word for “wave.”
Now follow this: A wave has the potential to knock a person down and sweep him into deep, troublesome waters. But as any surfer knows, a wave can also lift a person up and bring the surfer to the shore. Surfers don’t fear large powerful waves. The bigger the better! The greater the wave, the higher the lift, the more magnificent the ride, and the closer they will come to shore.
In Psalm 33 King David expressed it this way. He wrote, “In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.” When we trust in God through difficulties, even tragedies, we will ride the wave that could have otherwise knocked us down. The waves of life will carry us closer to God and in Him we will find joy.
In short, faith leads to joy. Therefore, any difficulties in our lives are opportunities in disguise. They are an invitation to grow closer to God and experience His unfailing love and unmitigated joy. Tragedy can be the worst thing that happens to us — or it can be the best intervention in our lives. It all depends on how we view it. We can let the waves beat us to the ground, or we can choose to ride the waves home.
Friends, next time it seems that a 10-foot wave is headed your way, get ready for the ride of your life. God wants us to succeed; He doesn’t want to see us get knocked down. Go forward in faith and let the waves carry you. God knows where we need to go and He knows how to get us there. If we let Him do the leading, we will ultimately end up in place of faith, peace, and unbounded joy. We’ll be home.
Download a complimentary chapter on Sukkot: Teaching Our Children Faith, from my new book, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith, to discover the important lessons about faith found in this festive celebration.