Whatever the Weather

The Fellowship  |  July 28, 2019

Nahal Iyon water mill at Ein Sukra

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
   whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
   that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
  its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.”— Jeremiah 17:7–8

Suffering, in all its various forms, is a universal human experience. While there often isn’t an answer to the question why suffering exists, there are many answers to how we can respond to the suffering of others. Our devotions explore how God comforts us, and how we can comfort others in times of suffering. Learn more through our complimentary Bible teaching on suffering.

There is a story from the 18th century about a man who was going through tremendously difficult times. This man visited the holy Maggid of Mezeritch and explained to the holy man that he was having a hard time applying the Talmudic saying that “A person should bless God for the bad just as he blesses Him for the good.” How could he bless God for the terrible hardships that he was experiencing? The Maggid had no answers, so he told the man to seek out his disciple, Rabbi Zusha, instead.

The man did as he was told and found the legendary Zusha. When he arrived, he was given a warm and friendly welcome. Once inside Zusha’s house, the man was shocked to see how destitute the Rabbi and his family were. Hardly any food or furnishings could be found in the house, and just about every family member was racked with illness. Nevertheless, Rabbi Zusha was always cheerful.

The guest was astonished. He told the rabbi, “I went to the Holy Maggid to ask him how it is possible to bless God for the bad that He sends us, and The Maggid told me to ask you.” Rabbi Zusha replied, “That’s a very interesting question. But why did our holy Rebbe send you to me? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering.”

Rabbi Zusha was virtually unshakable. Not only was he unwavering in his faith when troubles showed up in his life – he didn’t even notice them! Poverty? Illness? No one even cared! Zusha’s home was filled with joy. How is that humanly possible?

Jeremiah described people of faith and compared them to a “tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.” People of unshakable faith have deep roots that penetrate beyond the surface, firmly planted in their trust of God. They have taken a good look at the world and have decided that God is in control and that everything that happens is for the best. Their belief is firm, and the stormy winds of life cannot topple them.

But what happens to a tree, even a deeply rooted one, when there is no rain? Without water, even a big strong tree can become weak. That’s why people of faith plant themselves beside water. The Jewish sages teach that water is a symbol of the Torah, the Bible. Faithful people keep themselves immersed in studying God’s Word. That way, even when life sends them conditions that would otherwise stifle them, they continue to flourish. They don’t even notice the harsh elements around them.

Keep your roots well-watered. Study and pray daily. Then, you will always continue to thrive – no matter what kind of weather — or hardships — life blows your way.

To learn more, download our complimentary study from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on Suffering: God’s Refining Fire.