Rachel eloped. She married a shepherd that her father did not want her to marry. He wanted a person who knew Torah. She also wanted the same thing, but she looked at potential while her father looked at where the boy was now. She married a person who did not even know the alef-bet (Hebrew alphabet). The son of Kalba Savua, her father, was wealthy. He removed her from his support and her inheritance.
She married Akiva. Through delicate tact she convinced him to enroll in a Yeshiva. He did. They were so poor that she they slept in a barn-like shack. Their beds were made of straw. She being from a wealthy family was a bit disheartened. At that moment a poor person knocked on the door. “Please my friend can you spare some straw. My wife just gave birth and we don’t even have straw for the beds.” Akiva generously gave the straw he could spare. The incident gave them some Hizuk – strength to their morale.
“You see there are people who are even more needy than we.” Akiva said to his wife.
The truth was was that the poor person was Eliyahu HaNavi / Elijah the prophet who comes to the world to accomplish a mission for G-d. He came to them to give them Hizuk – by asking them for some straw.
The commentators ask a poignant question. “If G-d is sending Eliyahu – why not instead let him give Akiva and his wife a purse of gold coins?” Wouldn’t that make him happier?
I heard two answers to the question.
One answer is that by sending Eliyahu to ask for straw, it enabled Rabbi Akiva (as he was known later) to do kindness. It is kindness that really makes a person happy.
A Second answer is that if Eliyahu gave them gold coins, Akiva would not have become the great Torah scholar that he eventually became. The wealth would have made him and his wife focus more on materialism – that focus would have damaged his potential of becoming the Rabbi Akiva that he became. Eventually after 24 years of study away from home R. Akiva came back home with 24,000 students.
If Akiva received gold perhaps he would have come back with only 23,000 students or maybe even none. A person – taking life with the right attitude – can excel in adversity. G-d sends difficulties do that you can overcome them. So that you can become closer to him. So that you can excel in Torah and Mitzvot. And so that – through Torah and Mitzvot – you can become the greatest person you can become.
Meaning – the difficulties in life are here to make you – not break you. G-d only sends a person what they can handle. And all challenges that one encounters is for one’s own good. G-d is good. One reason why people have sufferance – is to help them achieve and better themselves. A person who always had all they needed – may become haughty and/or ungrateful. Sufferance may bring them back to humility and appreciation.
Don’t look at difficulty as a negative thing. Look at it as an opportunity to improve yourself and your life.