It seems these days that one cannot interact long with another person before the conversation eventually turns to the topic of pandemic, vaccines, protests or something in that general arena. Tensions are high, as these issues affect us all — societally as well as individually — and our feelings are amplified by the fact that we are all very weary indeed.
In this Sunday’s reading from the book of Numbers, we are invited once again into the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. The people had been out there wandering for quite a while, and most certainly they were very weary. One can imagine the tensions were high with them, too. Their complaining turned into a revolt against God, and they found themselves dealing with the threat of death from poisonous snakes in addition to their hunger, thirst, and weariness.
So, they prayed to God to take their burdens away . . . and God answered their prayers, but not in the way they expected. God did NOT remove their burdens. Rather, God provided a way for them to be healed, if they would choose to take it.
I think this is an important detail. We often pray that God will take away our burdens, and sometimes God does. More often, however, God provides a means for healing that requires action on our part — whether it is through modern medicine, the support of community, or the presence of someone who cares. We need to ask for help, and that can sometimes be the hardest thing for us to do. Thankfully, our Lord Christ — who knows what it is to empty oneself and become vulnerable — is truly present with us throughout all our struggles.
Perhaps we might pray this week that the Lord would open our eyes anew to the sources of healing already before us; that we might have the courage to ask for help through the hands of God’s servants here on earth, and that we might also be sensitive to ways in which we too can be agents of healing. Knowing that we are all weary and burdened, we might also make a renewed effort to ensure that our interactions with one another may be patient and kind, strengthened by the presence of our Advocate, the Holy Spirit.