Dear Dr. Yael,
I am a married man with a nice size family and a very sweet wife who takes wonderful care of us. I have been the breadwinner, but due to a merger in my company I was fired. We went from an excellent salary that allowed us to live a nice life, to no income. I did get a nice severance package, but I am very anxious that I will not be able to find something before it runs out.
I am writing for a few reasons. Number one, I am very anxious and not sure why Hashem is testing us this way. I daven and learn every single day, yet feel such a lack of emunah at this time.
Number two, my wife has not cut back on any expenses. She comes from an affluent family and is used to living a certain way – and says that if we need help, we can just turn to her parents. Our youngest is already in school full-time, yet she would never consider going to work.
We all look like we are doing fine, especially because our lifestyle has not changed. Yet, I feel so alone. Please help me.
We don’t understand the way Hashem works and that can make any situation we are in even more challenging.
Let us discuss your feeling as if you have a lack of emunah. There is a great saying: “Your faith can move mountains and your doubts can create them.”
As you say, to the world you look like the perfect family. So many people appear to have it all and, yet are struggling. As I have mentioned before, we all have challenges, some come in clear plastic bags and others are in black garbage bags – we all carry a load.
In the book, Food for Thought 2 (Mesorah Publications), by Yitzchak Hisiger, there is a story about Rav Shlomo Amar, which took place in 1973 right before Yom Kippur.
A farmer asked his son, who was home for the weekend, to stay a few days extra and help him bring in the crops. However, the son, who was in the army, said he had to report for duty. The father assured him it was not a problem, he was a good and diligent solider who always followed the rules and it was just this one time. In addition, he would have the moshav secretary send a letter to the commander.
When the son came back to base, his commander was furious and uninterested in his explanation. When the young man presented his note, the commander asked if he thought this was grade school. Our young man was punished with a 21-day detention.
In tears, the soldier called his father and told him how distraught he was about the injustice. The father was enraged and went to speak with Rav Amar. The Rav tried to calm the father down and told him to visit his son in prison. The Yom Kippur war broke out 12 days later and not a single member of that soldier’s unit survived. All of his comrades were captured and brutally murdered by the Egyptians. This young soldier who seemed to have been the victim of the greatest injustice in the world was the only one who survived. The terrible travesty of justice is what saved his life.
While this story is somewhat extreme, you don’t know if this door that closed for you at work will open another opportunity that will be better.
Of course you are going through a very stressful time and I cannot tell you that your anxiety is not warranted; however, your anxiety will not help you find another job or get through this intact. Try to manage your anxiety with cognitive behavioral techniques such as, talking yourself down (saying to yourself, “everything will be okay” over and over until you believe it), deep breathing, not letting yourself catastrophize – spiral into worst-case scenarios and feel overwhelmed. Instead focus on positive outcomes and help yourself realize that you will find a way to work things out – even if it means downsizing). In addition, visualize yourself in a relaxing situation.
If you are still having trouble managing your anxiety, then please seek professional help.
Lastly, try to focus on the positive in your life, the gifts Hashem has given you – including your wonderful wife and children. May Hashem give you the strength to deal with this difficult challenge. Please write back if you need more assistance and/or to share with us when things get better. Hatzlacha!