“The people spoke against G‑d and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this desert, for there is no bread and no water, and we are disgusted with this rotten bread.’ The L‑rd sent against the people the venomous snakes, and they bit the people, and many people of Israel died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the L‑rd and against you. Pray to the L‑rd that He remove the snakes from us.’ So Moses prayed on behalf of the people. The L‑rd said to Moses, ‘Make yourself a serpent and put it on a pole, and let whoever is bitten look at it and live. Moses made a copper snake and put it on a pole, and whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live.’”1

We’ve been stumbling around the desert for more than 39 years now, and I’m scared and miserable. The sand and heat don’t bother me anymore, not when compared to the angst and despair of a life spent in flux.

This is not what I looked forward to. All my rosy dreams of the fast track to success have long since dissipated, ground down by the realities of my sterile existence. In my heart of hearts I know the truth. It’s not the fault of the political leaders; it is I’m the one who has let myself down. no one’s fault other than my own. It is my depression that has sucked me into the morass. I’m the one who has let myself down. The choices I made, the paths I didn’t take, have landed me here. It was my own lack of confidence and self-belief that led me down this winding, lonely path of futility.

This isn’t a real life; this is just a tepid form of suspended reality—decades on end of wandering, with no end in sight. We’re supposed to be heading to the Promised Land, but I have no idea how, or even if, we’ll ever get there.

And now there is a new problem: I’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake. People all around me are dying of snakebite. Sure, we were complaining about the endless travel, but can you blame us? We’ve been going around in circles. Lately, we have even been doubling back on places we’ve passed before. People are demoralized, and they whinged. Is that enough reason for G‑d to attack us with poisonous snakes?

What a brilliant response our leader Moses had: People are dying of snakebite, so he builds a giant copper snake and mounts it on a stick. That’ll help! Having problems with snakes? Build a bigger snake.

I’m trying to count my blessings but it’s not easy.

But that’s not what Moses told us. He reckons it’s not looking up at the snake that saves us from death, rather it’s praying to G‑d that does the trick. The copper snake is just a visual cue, a method of drawing the eye upwards and redirecting our thoughts towards G‑d.2

Moses says that too many of us spend too much time moping, fixated on our petty problems and ourselves. Our eyes seem constantly cast downwards in despair, and we’ve been ignoring the big wide world of imagination and hope that lies over the horizon.

So, I’ve been taking my medicine. I’m looking up at the snake and trying to count my blessings, but it’s not easy. I’ve wasted too many years wading through the mud and worrying about the vipers. The serpents wouldn't go away just for the wishing, so G‑d had to jolt me out of my lethargy.

I am running out of time. If I don't make a change soon, I could die in this state of ineptitude. I've been once bitten and can't afford to be shy. No more excuses or procrastination; now is the time, and the time is now. I’ve been given a dose of shock therapy by G‑d, and it's up to me to focus on the future and complete the cure.

I might be living in a desert, but I haven’t been abandoned by G‑d.

I might be living in a desert, but I haven’t been abandoned by G‑d. I might not know how to get where I’m going, but I know where I have to go. I might have been bitten by the dark snake of despair, but I refuse to let the poison of depression flow through my bloodstream. If I can look upwards in hope, if I can tap into a reservoir of joy and look forward to a brighter future, then I am guaranteed salvation from heaven, the respect of my peers, and soon—very soon—I can anticipate crossing over into the Promised Land.