Never despair! Rebbe Nachman declared. But is it enough to just steer clear of despair? Breslov chassidut rests on something deeper than just avoiding the negative…we’re meant to hold fast to the power of hope. Through trust and hope, it’s possible to never despair. In fact, it’s our duty to be, as Reb Nosson would say, a “prisoner of hope”—holding tight to its vital force no matter what.
Reb Nachman of Tulchin would say, “When we get to heaven we will not only be asked whether we yearned for the general redemption. We will also be asked if we were constantly anticipating the light of redemption from all of our personal pains and challenges.”
Yet even as we trust and hope in G-d’s kindness and assistance, even while we pray for it, we also need to develop the patience that comes from acceptance that pain is a part of life. Rebbe Nachman once shared a very telling story about his own childhood that provides this insight. “When I was a child, my mother would comb my hair to remove the knots. Although this hurt a lot, I didn’t cry or complain. Even at a very young age, I understood that everyone suffers. Why should I resist it and cry over it?”
Reb Nosson once said to a man who was suffering significant pain, “Every person needs to take a good look at what they endure. Although we go through a lot, it is always being tempered by some kindness. Instead of waiting and then inflicting us with more than we can handle, G-d gives us a little at a time. It’s true, we sometimes have pain to bear, but G-d delivers it to us in a graduated way, so that we can endure whatever is necessary for our ultimate good.”
It’s natural for us to want things to go our way, and it’s hard to tolerate when situations deviate from the course we’ve set for them. The frustration of the will can sometimes be the hardest suffering of all. Rebbe Nachman warned, “We don’t understand how G-d runs the world, especially in our times. It is enough for us to understand that everyone has to bear some degree of pain here. The only way to negotiate the many vicissitudes of life is to do it with the best grace and good humor we can summon. The only real good is to accept whatever G-d sends our way. Those who fight their pain instead of accepting it don’t gain a thing. Quite the contrary; often, when a person refuses to bear a little bit of suffering, they suffer a lot instead…”