“Everything is going to be alright” may be the greatest lie we tell our children.  Imagine the swaddled babe in its parents’ arms looking quizzically back up at their parent and asking, “what do you mean by alright?” The promise of protection from harm is wishful thinking. But the hopefulness it engenders might be enough to inspire patience and sustain us in challenging times.

For example, when Jacob runs away from his home to find safety with distant relatives, he spends the night in the wilderness. Placing a rock under his head he has a dream of angels on a ladder and hears God’s reassurances. God promises to protect him, to return Jacob to his home, and stay with him always. God’s promises were not a guarantee of an easy life. Soon after this revelation, Jacob was emotionally and financially abused by Lavan, his father-in-law-to-be. After working for seven years to secure the hand of Rachel he was

tricked into marrying Leah. After another seven years, he got his intended bride.  Jacob passed the theological marshmallow test. In the marshmallow test, a marshmallow was placed before a child with the instruction that if the child waited to eat the marshmallow, then he would be rewarded with an extra.  Lavan posed that test to Jacob, who was willing to wait

for the wife he wanted and ended up with a double.

Jacob must have had great faith.  He worked for seven years to secure a promised reward and was tricked. And then Jacob worked another seven years. Lavan could have tricked Jacob again, yet Jacob continued in his father-in-law’s employment for yet another seven years. Perhaps Jacob spent long lonely days with the goats wondering about God’s promise in the wilderness. What did God’s protection really mean? To a young man, seven years seems an eternity. And two decades as his father-in-law’s servant must have seemed unending. But God’s promise inspired Jacob to be patient.

Jacob must have understood that God’s promise was like a limited warranty. God is not a guarantor of happy outcomes. The only guarantee is that life will be challenging. When life feels broken, God inspires us to endure and to be strong.

I do not conceive God as all-powerful and directing every event. I am comfortable understanding God’s role is like that of a parent. Parents hope for the best but anticipate our children being tossed and roiled in their lives. Knowing the pain of parenting, I have empathy for God. Reading about the tenacity and patience of Jacob, I admire how he navigated the challenges in his life. At least he passed the marshmallow test.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame