Do you feel overwhelmed?
Let me tell you a story my good friend, Rosemarie Kowalski, allowed me to share in my book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It’s a message of hope for everyone who feels they’ve been given more than they can bear.
The story is told of a man who met God in a lovely valley one day.“Is there anything I can do for you?” the man asked.
“Yes, there is,” God said. “I have a wagon with three stones in it, and I need someone to pull it up the hill for me. Are you willing?”
“Yes, I’d love to do something for you. Those stones don’t look very heavy, and the wagon’s in good shape. I’d be happy to do that.”
God gave the man speciﬁc instructions, sketching a map in the dust at the side of the road. “Go through the woods and up the road that winds up the side of the hill. Once you get to the top, just leave the wagon there. Thank you for your willingness to help me today.”
“No problem!” the man replied and set off cheerfully. The wagon pulled a bit behind him, but the burden was an easy one. What a joy to be able to help the Lord, he thought, enjoying the beautiful day.
Just around the third bend, he walked into a small village. A man there asked what he was doing. “Well, God gave me a job this morning. I’m delivering these three stones to the top of the hill.”
“My goodness! I was just praying this morning about how I was going to get this rock to the top of the mountain,” the man told him. “Could you take it up there for me? It would be such an answer to prayer.”
The man said, “Of course. I don’t suppose God would mind. Just put it behind the other stones.” Then he set off with three stones and a rock rolling behind him.…
The wagon seemed a bit heavier. The man could feel the jolt of each bump, and the wagon seemed to pull to one side a bit. The man stopped to adjust the load as he sang a hymn of praise, pleased to be helping out a brother as he served God. He soon reached another small village where a good friend lived.
“You’re going to the top of the hill?” his oldest friend asked.
“Yes! I am so excited. Can you imagine, God gave me something to do!”
“Hey!” said his friend. “I need this bag of pebbles taken up. I’ve been so worried that it might not get taken care of since I haven’t any time to do it myself. But you could ﬁt it in right between the three stones here in the middle.” With that, he placed his burden in the wagon.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” the man said. “I think I can handle it.” He waved good-bye and began to pull the wagon back onto the road.
The wagon was deﬁnitely tugging on his arm now, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. As he started up the incline, he began to feel the weight of the three stones, the rock, and the pebbles. Certainly God would be proud of how energetic and helpful he’d been.
One little stop followed another, and the wagon grew fuller and fuller. The sun was hot above the man pulling it, and his shoulders ached with the strain. The songs of praise and thanksgiving that had ﬁlled his heart had long since left his lips as resentment began to build inside. Surely this wasn’t what he had signed up for that morning. God had given him a burden heavier than he could bear.
The wagon lumbered and swayed over the ruts in the road. Frustrated, the man wanted to give up. “This is it!” he fumed as the load of obligations collided with the back of his legs. “Oh God,” he wailed. “I thought you were behind this trip, but I am overcome by the heaviness of it. You’ll have to get someone else to do it.”
As he prayed, God came to his side. “Sounds like you’re having a hard time,” God said as He looked into the wagon. “What is this?” He held up the bag of pebbles.
“That belongs to John, my good friend. He didn’t have time to bring it up himself. I thought I would help.”
“And this?” God tumbled two pieces of shale over the side of the wagon as the man tried to explain. God continued to unload the wagon, removing both light and heavy items. They dropped to the ground, the dust swirling up around them. The man who had hoped to help God grew silent.
“If you will be content to let others take their own burdens,” God told him, “I will help you with your task.”
“But I promised I would help! I can’t leave these things lying here.”
“Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighted down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.”
The man jumped to his feet, suddenly realizing the freedom God was offering. “You mean I only have to take the three stones after all?” he asked.
“That is what I asked you to do.” God smiled. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. I will never ask you to carry more than I will give you the strength to bear.”
—Also featured in At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart
“Dumping Rocks” Exercise
When my friend Tricia Goyer started feeling overwhelmed by her too-busy life, she and her husband, John, decided to dump some rocks from their overloaded wagons. Here’s the simple process they followed. Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too.
- They made a list of all the activities they were involved in (children, work, church, etc.).
- They prayed over and prioritized the activities as to importance, assigning each one a number from one to four.
- Then they eliminated all the fours.
While this process may sound overly simplistic, it really helped John and Tricia lighten their load. “It was hard to see things we enjoyed go out the door!” Tricia says. “But the freedom and the peace we’ve gained have been more than worth it.”
Download the “Dumping Rocks Worksheet.” Fill out the worksheet when you have time to think and pray. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what should stay and what should go.
How would your life – and your life with Jesus – change if your own load were lightened?