What Good Are Stress and Trials, Anyhow?

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

All posts are dedicated first to God the Father and Jesus Christ the Savior.  This particular post is dedicated secondarily to a friend.


A man was feeling a bit down and helpless, so he went out to his cabin in the woods and prayed to God for strength.  That night, he dreamed a very vivid dream.  The Lord appeared to him in the dream, and asked the man if he was aware of the huge boulder in front of his cabin.  The man answered in the negative.  “I have placed a large boulder in front of your cabin in the driveway,” said the Lord.  “It is in the way of your truck, so you will not be able to leave until it has been removed.  Beginning tomorrow, I want you to push against the rock every day.  I want you to give it your best effort and be relentless.  Don’t give up, but get out there each day and push against the rock.”

The next morning, the man woke up remembering the vivid dream.  He jumped up, had a hearty breakfast, got dressed and went out to push at the rock.  For many days, he felt he finally had a purpose.  He diligently got up everyday, got himself fed, ready and dressed for the weather, went outside and pushed against the rock.  A couple of months went by, and he measured the distance of the rock from his house, and he began to get discouraged when he saw no progress.  Still, he kept at it.

Finally, a couple of years went by, but the rock had not budged.  “You have failed,” a voice within his head said.  “You cannot do it.  It’s too hard.  You have wasted your time and your talents.”  The man pushed the voice out of his thoughts, but they began to come around once a week, then every day, and finally began to get louder.

Finally, after three long years, the man broke down crying at the foot of his bed after the end of a particularly exhausting day.  He began to pray, “God, I know you wanted me to move the rock, but I cannot.  I have failed.  My life is such a waste!  Please let me die rather than face this failure!”

The man soon fell asleep upon his bed.  He was so tired, he didn’t even remove his clothes.  His body was sore, his mind weary, and he went into a deep sleep.  After a few hours, he began to dream a vivid dream.

God appeared to the man in the dream.  “My son, what is wrong?  Why were you crying?”

“Lord,” said the man in his dream, “I have labored and toiled.  I have sweated and strained.  I have done my best to do the task you gave me to do.  Yet, I cannot move the boulder.  I measure it, but it has not budged.  I have failed.  Please, dear Lord, take my life and end this misery!”

“My son, when did I ever ask you to move the boulder?  I said to push it every day.  Your job was to push at the rock every day, and that you did.  Why then do you feel like a failure?”

“I don’t understand.”

“You call yourself a ‘failure’, but look at yourself.  Your arms have become strong, your legs have become hard as trees, the sun has given your face and back a golden tan, and your hands are calloused and strong.  Resistance has made you stronger.  Opposition has made you more than you could have ever have been otherwise.  You have been obedient, so tomorrow you will be able to leave.”

“But, Lord,” said the man, “the boulder still blocks the driveway.”

“It does not any longer, for I have moved it in my grace towards you.”

Sometimes, we try to make sense of things.  Logic fails us, for we don’t have all the facts.  Instead, God wants us to have faith.  God wants us to obey Him.  Faith won’t move the mountain, but God can, and He often reminds us of that.  So ….

When everything seems to go wrong — just PUSH.

When the job gets you down — just PUSH.

When people act like jerks for no reason — just PUSH.

When the money runs out, the bills are due and the refrigerator quits working — just PUSH.

When others just plain don’t seem to understand — just PUSH.

  • Pray
  • Until
  • Something
  • Happens

~ From an old story that’s been passed around numerous times

My father loved Conan the Barbarian.  He had quite a few Conan books in the library when I was growing up.  The only fiction he had more of was Tarzan.

The movie “Conan the Barbarian” was pretty decent, I thought.  I admit I never read the books, but I guess it doesn’t really matter, as there seems to have been several story lines and several authors over the years.  In the movie, Conan was taken captive and made to move a grindstone to grind wheat.  Day after day, he pushed the wheel.  Over the years, this made him very strong, and that strength allowed him to defeat his enemies.

Apparently, there is a strongman competition called “Conan’s Wheel”:

Pushing against resistance causes muscle growth, assuming adequate diet, rest and health.

Resistance is loosely defined as an opposing force, but the dictionary doesn’t really expound upon the type of exercise.  Wikipedia says “strength training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction”.  So, the force makes muscles contract, thus burning energy and causing the muscle to enlarge over time.

You want to know what else is a force?  Stress.  Dictionary.com says one definition of stress is “the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.”

Interesting similarity, don’t you think?  What causes stress?  Trials.  Have a hard day at work?  Have a child in trouble?  Can’t make ends meet?  Can’t find enough work (a far too common stresser these days)?  These are trials.  Stress is the result.

I could keep going with this, and I may yet expand upon this small foundation one day.  However, I think it is sufficient for now to quote the Bible:

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

~ Jas 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Well, OK, how about one more passage?  It’s just too close to the subject to ignore:

7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

~ 1Ti 4:7-10


  1. I would rather be as strong as toadstool than blown by the wind like a wildflower. And, I have to admit that even the strength of a little ol’ toadstool is nothing when compared to the strength that God gives me when I finally admit that I cannot do it on my own and He has to carry me through. Trials, life may be so much better without them but we would be so much less. Thanks for the post, I don’t know who your friend is, but I hope whoever it is gains some comfort from your words.