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A story went around the Internet several years ago written by the smart fellow named Anonymous. It is a poignant allegory and goes like this.
A man made his home in the woods far from civilization. He liked it that way and relished the clear air and exercise he got walking, as well as the marvelous peace he had away from the bustling city just down the mountain.
One morning he walked outside and saw a huge rock sitting right in the middle of the path he walked to work. He put his hands on his hips wondering how it got there and how he was going to get rid of it.
The Angel of the Lord appeared beside him and said, “O, Man, God has sent me to tell you that it is His great desire that you push against this rock.”
The man was astonished, but he loved the Lord and wanted to please Him, so every morning he pushed and pushed against the rock. He would break for lunch and refresh himself with water, but his main concern was pushing the rock. Day after day, he pushed and pushed, and nothing happened. Soon he felt defeated by the huge stone that didn’t move.
Satan settled on top of the rock and watched the man push and push. He heaved a huge sigh and said, “O, Man, I have watched you push and push against this rock, and it goes nowhere. You have been at this for days and days and nothing has happened. Why don’t you quit? Why don’t you just give up and walk around the rock? Go back to your routine and forget about this terrible rock. You are getting nowhere fast.”
The man wiped his brow and said, “Sir, you have a point. Why am I pushing with no results? I’m wasting my time here when I could be doing something productive. You are right!” With that, he stomped back into his home and slammed the door. He stared at the rock out his window. There it sat, right in the middle of the path, blocking his view of the mountain. A useless hunk of stone that God had dropped in his path.
The Angel of the Lord stood beside him. “O, Man, why do you sit in here brooding and not pushing the rock?”
The man glared at The Angel of the Lord. “I have pushed and pushed against that rock with nothing to show for it. I have not been able to budge it an inch, much less move it from the pathway. It blocks my view and it is useless.”
“Did God tell you to move the rock or to push the rock?”
“To push! But, what is the use of that? It doesn’t budge.”
“You obeyed the Lord God Almighty, Man. You pushed for days on end and that was precisely what the Lord told you to do. There is righteousness in that. Look at your legs. The muscles are taut and huge. Your back is strong and straight. Your arms are twice the size they were months ago. You have a finely muscled body that is in shape for your next task. If you had not obeyed Him in this, you would not be ready for your next work.”
Sometimes, God will tell you to do things that make no sense in the short distance between your nose and the rock. But, glimpsing the big picture you see that it makes perfect sense and all things have a purpose according to God’s good purposes for all those who love Him.
I wonder how often the same thing happens to us. We get so caught up in the “defeats” in our lives, the times when things don’t turn out the way we want them to, or when obstacles seem to block our progress. So we’re depressed because an illness continues to linger, or when people don’t treat us the way we think they ought to, or when we face financial difficulties.
But we are often so blinded by the pain and disappointment of our “defeat” that we fail to appreciate the fact that we might be witness to something far greater that God is doing in our lives.
Remember when Paul was in prison? He wrote to the Philippian Christians,
But I want you to know, brethren that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:12)
While most of us would have focused on the “defeat” (being in prison even though he was innocent), Paul was able to see what God was doing in his life. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s never easy to view things from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one, but it is especially difficult in the midst of pain and defeat. But it is learning how to have a heavenly view that helps us to know joy no matter what happens in our lives.