Steadfast in Times of Trouble
It is safe to assume that this year has been one of the most complicated and difficult years of our lives for most of us.
2020 has been a year filled with fires, viruses, deaths, fear, natural disasters, masks, and so much more. At times like these, people begin to suspect that the end times are near, and while that is a heavy claim, it’s fair to say that we may indeed be seeing signs of the birth pangs of Messiah.
So how are believers supposed to act during a time that may be the early signs of the coming Messiah? The answer is found in the instructions left for us by our Master Yeshua and the apostles. During his time here on earth, Yeshua provided multiple instructions on remaining faithful and maintaining the path of discipleship during difficult times:
Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. (Luke 12:35-36)
Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore, stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. (Mark 13:33-37)
Paul also teaches on this matter:
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)
These passages clearly lay out for us the need to remain alert and steadfast during difficult times. Mussar, the Jewish study and practice of ethics, has a lot to say and teach us on this matter as well. The closest Mussar trait to steadfastness is that of equanimity. Alan Morinis words it succinctly in his book Everyday Holiness when he says:
Equanimity is a quality of being centered in yourself, though at the same time being exquisitely sensitive to the forces that are at work all around, or else you will be vulnerable to being tossed around by the sorts of unexpected waves that crash in on every life. 
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, a great Mussar teacher, says, “As long as one lives a life of calmness and tranquility in the service of God, it is clear that he is remote from true service.” What this means to say is that true service to God requires facing challenges in our lives and conquering them with peace and steadfastness, maintaining humility while under extreme pressures. Yeshua also promises us a life of equanimity when one chooses to face each challenge in faith and steadfastness toward our Master. James also adds:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
This year has forced the world to a halt and displayed how little we are in control. The illusion of man’s dominance over nature was dispelled, and many people have found themselves lost, grasping at something in which to find an identity. Being a disciple gives us the advantage during hard times because we know that no matter how bad things get, we know that God is in control and is working steadfastly to carry out his plan.
As we enter a new year, we are presented with a clean slate to start anew. No matter what situation you have faced or where you are currently, now is the time to take action and start living up to the life to which Yeshua has called us. The best way to go about this and to live a steadfast life is through taking up the practice of Mussar or something similar to that. You can read previous blogs here, here, here, and here to learn more about this practice and discover its usefulness in your life.
Let us all take charge of our lives and truly set out not to get caught up in the chaos of the world but to rise above and display the equanimity with which being a believer in a faithful God emboldens us. We have a unique opportunity at this time when the world is looking for hope and answers to provide them the ultimate hope and answer. This is our time as believers to be the light that Yeshua has called us to be and take the world by storm. In the words of the Apostle Paul:
Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
- Immanuel Etkes, “Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and His Psychology of Mussar” in Jewish Spirituality, vol. 2, ed. Arthur Green (New York, NY: Crossroads, 1986-87), 226.
First Fruits of Zion