Srila Prabhupada's teaching is that Krishna will never give a challenge beyond which we cannot pass. It's like a teacher and a student. A teacher will not give a trigonometry question to a second grade student. The teacher will give a test which the students can handle. In the unfolding of our devotional service, Krishna may give us greater and greater challenges. I am finding that's the case. There are greater and greater challenges, such that there is no way that the challenge can be addressed other than by Krishna's mercy and the practical application of some intelligence. It may be that we need to go to these other persons or resources who are skilled in this area or that area to help us. With the mercy of Krishna, there is no obstacle that is insurpassable.
Obstacles may seem to be just insurmountable. But then, if Krishna so desires, they are surmountable and it becomes so clear that they were just impetus for more surrender unto Krishna. We should take it that way. Obstacles in the path of devotional service should be addressed in that way. It's not that everything is going to disappear, and it's not that everything is directly a design of the Supreme Lord. We take responsibility for our actions. But that does not mean Krishna is punishing us, or that we should use Krishna's mercy as an excuse for our foolishness in getting into problems. There may genuinely be obstacles that are coming our way which we take as being due to past misdeeds. This classic instruction for devotees when they are having problems is found in the tat te 'nukampam verse of Lord Brahma. There we find what not to do and what to do when obstacles come.
When obstacles come, what not to do is take our attention away from Krishna and instead place our consciousness upon getting rid of that obstacle. We can have some plan to address the obstacle, but, not at the sacrifice of placing our consciousness upon Krishna. Lord Brahma's teaching is: "I have done something wrong. I stole the calves and the cowherd boys. I know I am going to get it. I have some reaction coming to me and I will accept it. I am not going to invest consciousness in trying to neutralize or minimize that reaction. I will just accept it. But, the fullness of my intelligence will go to one place: taking shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna. From that position I will not budge a fraction of an inch, knowing that by so doing I will inherit the property of my Father. I will simply maintain that the rest of my life." Who is Brahma's father? Lord Vishnu! And what is the property of Vishnu? The kingdom of God! So we inherit the kingdom of God. Just by that steadfast devotion, we can go back to Godhead. While not budging one inch, some practical action may be taken to address the obstacle or problem out there. But our attention is not taken away from Krishna. That determination is the means to overcome the obstacles.
Then Krishna will address - yoga-ksemam vahamy aham. Whatever it is that we need or require, Krishna will supply; whatever we have as a necessity, Krishna will maintain. The obstacle of not having faith in that is an internal obstacle, because we are busy trying to fix the problem and dealing with the obstacle so much that we do not have time to think of Krishna. Then we will go through more problems and have less time to think of Krishna to an extent where we don't think of Krishna at all. That is how the external energy works. It's like quicksand or the tar baby. What happens when you touch the tar? When you try to remove it your hands get more stuck, until finally your whole body is around that tar! Material life is like that. The solution is not to try to push it away. The solution is trying to receive the mercy, taking practical steps according to guru, sadhu, and sastra, and the inspiration that we may get from Krishna. Leave the tendency of expecting material happiness from devotional service outside the house of bhakti, like shoes, and practice having proper expectations.
-- From a lecture by HH Romapada Swami on 'Clearing Obstacles in Devotional Service, Part 2', delivered on July 2009, in Detriot, US.