Pushing the Boulder

A king called one of his servants to the royal grounds and pointed out a particularly large boulder that marred the beauty of his garden.  He ordered the servant to arrive promptly at 6:00 a.m. each morning and push on the boulder for as long as he could before reaching exhaustion.  While it seemed impossible that he could move such a large obstacle, the servant began the very next day and obediently showed up at 6:00 a.m. each day thereafter to push on the boulder.   

At first, he could only push on it for a few minutes before tiring, but as weeks and then months went by, he found that he could push on the boulder for an hour or more each day.  Unfortunately, his efforts didn’t seem to be making any difference in the position of the boulder in the garden. One day, after pushing on the boulder for a full hour and a half with absolutely no progress, the servant collapsed in defeat.  It seemed so pointless!  Every morning, he showed up to push the boulder, but it never moved – not even an inch!  The more he thought about it, the more frustrated and depressed he became.  Finally, he went to the king and begged to be reassigned to more meaningful work. 

The king looked at him a moment and then said, “You seem to have missed the point.  I was not interested in changing the position of the boulder.  If I had been, I could have called up one hundred soldiers with the strength of their horses to do the job.  The boulder served as a test and a tool to change you.  A test because it has shown me your willingness to obey my orders even when they seem illogical and without purpose.  And a tool because in the process of pushing the boulder each morning all these months, you have become stronger and more prepared for the next task I have in mind for you.” 

Maybe God has assigned you a boulder.  It could be a ministry or some important work.  It could be a sin that you are struggling with or a sin in someone else’s life that you’ve been praying about.  In the beginning, you were passionate about the opportunity to minister to others or about the work you were given to do or the problem you were going to solve, but now you’re just frustrated with the total lack of progress despite your time, effort and intellect.  It seems like too much for God to ask you alone to handle, and sometimes, you think about giving up. 

If your focus is on the position of the boulder, frustration will almost certainly follow.  No boulders get moved without God doing the heavy lifting.  He only allows us to participate.  If your boulder isn’t moving, maybe boulder movement is not the outcome God is looking for right now.  The boulder could be a tool and a test designed to help you grow in faith and obedience.  So, let the boulder do its work.  The strength it gives you will prepare you for whatever God has planned next.



Filed under God's Will, overcoming obstacles, Spiritual Growth

7 responses to “Pushing the Boulder

  1. mike

    well done i like it.

  2. Pingback: Where do we go for here!

  3. Mike
    Thanks for the story. I did a Google search for some of the key words and your entry came out pretty high on the list. I had similar thoughts this morning and posted on my “musings” blog page .
    Blessings on your ministry!


    Thanks, Franc! I appreciate the encouragement, and I enjoyed your musings!


    • I found your blog when someone added a comment elsewhere in response to my own comment. She summarized this story (in about 2 paragraphs!) in support of a response I gave to the original blogger, and so I did a search for the story itself.

      As a Quaker, I spend time discerning not just where I’m called but to what task in particular I’m called: to do more would be “outrunning my Guide.” To do less would be “lagging behind my Guide.”

      The boulder story reaffirms that we are called to holy obedience, in loving kindness.

      It’s also a reminder that what I am called to may not make sense in the moment, nor might I ever know the fruits of my initial labor. Very humbling indeed.

      Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

      • Hi, Liz. I love the concept of outrunning our Guide or lagging behind Him. I often find myself out front on some project He never called me to do. And when I’m not out front, I’m often far, far behind. Thanks for the word picture.


  4. Tom English

    Hi, I love the boulder story. Any clue as to its origins?

    Many thanks,


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