The burden

Numbers 11:14
“I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few days without responsibility? You know, one of those rare–if nonexistent–times when we don’t have to deal with anyone else’s problems? A day with no one else’s troubles, no one else’s gripes and complaints, no one else’s pain, and certainly no one else that we need to help with living their life on their own–that would be bliss, wouldn’t it? Haven’t we got enough troubles of our own–aches, pains, worries, fears, regrets, doubts? Sometimes, it seems like we are overwhelmed by all that we have to deal with, by all the pettiness of others and the tribulations of our own lives. It is those times that it is really tempting to quit, to run away, to avoid other people. Many of us then turn off our lines of communication or hide away, just so we don’t have to hear what’s going on in others’ lives. Some of us turn a deaf ear to others’ problems, isolating ourselves from family and friends just so we can deal with our own trials. And a very few people regrettably choose a more permanent solution, trying to end their own lives so they don’t have to face their own and others’ pain.

If any of that sounds familiar to you, then you are in good company, because that was how Moses felt as he led the people of Israel away from Egypt. At times, Moses felt like God was punishing him, that the Lord had specifically chosen to afflict him with these unrepentant and rebellious people. (Numbers 11:11) Moses more than once asked God to give the burden to someone else, and in today’s passage he even asked for something a bit more drastic:

Numbers 11: 15
“If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now–if I have found favor in Your sight–and do not let me see my wretchedness!”

Moses felt like the burden was too heavy for him, that the weight of these million people and their complaining about being freed from slavery was too much for him to bear. “Just kill me now!” Moses was saying. We can relate to that, can’t we? We can commiserate with Moses as he asks to be relieved of the burden of caring for others, as he cries out to the Lord that this is too much responsibility for one man. The fear of failure is plain to see, and poor Moses doesn’t want to see the wretchedness of his own guilt if he should fail God and these people. Way back at the beginning of this, Moses had even warned God that he might not be up to the task:

Exodus 3:11
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Or, as David put it, “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16) What makes me so special? How is it that You, Lord, think I am worthy of the tasks You’ve set before me? Why have You blessed me with Your favor, knowing that I am just a man? Don’t You know that I am prone to sin and failure?

I ask those questions quite often, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of living an everyday life and also a life serving God. And God’s response goes something like this:

Romans 8:28-30
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

I am not “just” a man. I am being conformed to the image of the Son of God, being glorified by the King of glory Himself. I have the Holy Spirit within me to enable me to do great things that I would truly never have been able to do on my own. And more importantly, there is this:

1 Peter 2:9-10
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

I AM NOT ALONE. I am part of a whole GENERATION of people called to be God’s royal priesthood.
And that was God’s message to Moses that day, too.

Numbers 11:16-17
16 So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.
17 “Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.”

The responsibility to bear one another’s burdens is not ours alone to face. The Lord has poured out His Spirit upon others to help us minister to others. His Spirit dwells within believers just like you and me, so that they can help us bear the burden of other people’s lives. And just when we feel like we do not have what it takes, the Holy Spirit of God reminds us that He DOES have what it takes.

2 Corinthians 12:9
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

When Elijah was hiding in a cave on the mountain of God at Horeb, the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here?” And when the prophet replied that he was saving his own life so that he could serve the Lord later, God once again asked him, “What are you doing here?” It was as if God was asking, “What are you accomplishing by hiding away?” The Lord God then revealed to Elijah that he, too, was not alone, that the Lord had preserved SEVEN THOUSAND faithful people to help Elijah help others. (1 Kings 19:9-18)

We who follow Christ should know something: the Holy Spirit of God has been given to ALL believers, and the gifts of the Spirit apportioned to all as He sees fit, for the benefit of all. (1 Corinthians 12:7-12) There are literally MILLIONS of other believers out there with the Holy Spirit dwelling within them so that they may do the good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do.

Yes, we are not alone.

God never intends that we should try to escape from the responsibilities of this life, and He certainly doesn’t want us to abandon each other simply because we don’t feel up to the task of helping others. Perhaps I don’t have what it takes to help someone on my own, or perhaps I don’t have the knowledge or the experience to guide someone, to share the right Word to heal their heart and mind. Perhaps I don’t have the physical strength to bear the burden of helping others alone. That is why we are called AS A BODY OF BELIEVERS, why we are called “the church”–in Greek, εκκλησία (ekklesia), which literally means “called out,” as in those who are called to meet together.

Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

If ministry were easy, if it made us happy and strong, if it brought us money or fame or favor, everyone would do it. But ministry is hard. It is physically and emotionally draining, it brings us no popularity, and quite often, just when we thought we are as broken as we can get, our ministering to others breaks our hearts again. But we are not meant to do it alone, and nor are we meant to face our own problems alone. God has chosen people to help us with our own ministries and to minister to us, too. God has preserved a remnant upon whom He has poured out His Spirit to enable them to do whatever we cannot do on our own.

At times it seems like we might never be able to help someone else, like we have done all we can and it just isn’t enough. At times we feel like our own lives are so overwhelming that we cannot accomplish anything in the service of God. At times the world seems too much for us and we just wish we could escape from the burden of all this responsibility for our own and others’ lives. At those times, dear brothers and sisters, we must turn to the Word of God and remember this:

Isaiah 44: 8
“Do not fear, nor be afraid;
Have I not told you from that time, and declared it?
You are My witnesses.
Is there a God besides Me?
Indeed there is no other Rock;
I know not one.”

We are His witnesses, and He is and was and always shall be the Rock, the Redeemer, the Lord our God who has sworn to never leave us nor forsake us. Let us always remember that we are never alone. And just when the burden seems too heavy for us, let us listen to the Lord as He reminds us that other believers are here to bear that burden with us.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I always remember that song from the old musical that says, “You’ll never walk alone.” Let me always remember that my burdens are not truly mine alone to bear, that the trials of life are meant to be shared across many shoulders, and that the unbreakable cord of three strands always includes You. Lord God, all I ask is that You guide me to those who will bear life’s burdens with me. Help me to discern who are Your chosen people whose strength comes from the Holy Spirit of God. And, Father, help me to have the strength to be the one others can come to for help in bearing their burdens, too. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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