Authored by Dan Roselle
Recently, when undertaking a particular task, I began to get overwhelmed by the fact that the task was harder than I had anticipated, and that I wasn’t making much progress.
These and other concerns began to eat away at my mind until I finally took it to the Lord and poured out my fears and worries, asking Him what I should do. The simple answer came clearly as soon as I stopped to listen: “Roll away the stone.” I immediately knew what He wanted me to do.
That’s a phrase taken from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Lazarus’ tomb was a cave with a large stone rolled in front of it. Jesus was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead, but the stone needed to be moved away first. Now surely if Jesus could raise His dear friend from the dead, couldn’t He just have Lazarus walk through the stone—or sort of dematerialize and materialize again outside the tomb? “Beam me up, Scotty,” Star Trek style.
However, there was a plan and a purpose to the way this miracle was to be played out. First of all, try to imagine a crowd of Lazarus’ friends and family gathered around. There was a pretty close bond between Jesus and this particular family. The atmosphere must have been quite emotional, with many people weeping. The Bible even states that Jesus wept1—one of the two times His tears are recorded in the Bible.
Then, standing before the tomb, Jesus tells the people to “roll the stone away.”2 He was going to do the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, but moving that stone was something that the family and friends could do. Their act of moving that stone was a demonstration that they believed in Jesus and His power.
However, when hearing Jesus ask them to roll away the stone, Martha reminds Him that her brother’s been dead for four days and that “there will be a bad smell.”3 Although she would love to have her dear brother alive again, there were some practical things to consider. Jesus reminded her of what He had already told her. “Didn’t I tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?”4
Right there was the lesson for me. I needed to have faith that Jesus would take care of what I couldn’t get done, but I also knew that before He’d do that for me, I had to “roll away the stone.” And in my case, rolling away the stone meant persevering in my task, doing what I could do to complete it and not giving up. I had been complaining that it was too difficult for me, but I realized that I needed to do the things that I could do.
No doubt you’ve come up against obstacles in your life. Everybody has. Maybe it was something that required tedious research, intense study, or actual physical labor. If your obstacle was, let’s say, an important exam, you may have worried that you wouldn’t pass. In this case, your “stone” to roll away would be to research and study what was needed, and to pray that you’d retain all the information for the test. Then, after having done what you could, your part would be to trust God and be happy with the outcome.
Many years ago, when we were moving our family of seven from Korea to Japan, we had a limited time frame, and very little money, to make such a move. However, we began doing what we knew we could do, because we were convinced that this was God’s direction for us. We began selling or giving away our household items, packing, and researching information on living accommodations in Tokyo. Those were the days before the Internet, so there were limitations on what information was available. All we could do was communicate with our friends in Tokyo and make a wish list of what we hoped our future house would be like.
Upon arrival in Japan, a friend of a friend offered to let us temporarily stay at his house while we house-hunted. That was a welcome surprise, as we had planned to stay in hotels during our search for our house. We were grateful it happened this way, though, as we didn’t find a house for our family as quickly as we had hoped. In fact, it was one year before we moved into our new house. But God kept His end of the bargain, and while we continued to do our part by waiting and trusting in Him, He did the unexpected by providing our housing in a miraculous way.
God will do what we can’t do, but He often requires us to do what we can do first. One thing I have learned, though, during the “rolling away stones” phase, is that it’s best not to entertain fear or agonize about all the “what ifs,” as doing so makes it harder to focus on doing my part.
There often comes a point when we have done enough on our end, but perhaps we’re not happy with the direction things are going, and so we “try” our hardest to bring about our desired outcome. This isn’t doing our part and trusting God to do the rest, but more like us trying to solve the problem while God is patiently waiting on the sidelines for us to step aside and let Him do it.
Not long ago I had some legal matters that needed to be resolved. Although I was hoping for the best, it was becoming obvious that the conclusion wasn’t going to be for my best, so I kept trying to do things that would “improve” the outcome. Through our attorney, I offered three different proposals regarding the issue, but each one was shot down. After my third proposal was rejected, I realized that I had to let go of my plans, my hopes, and how I wanted the situation to be resolved. I’d done what I could, and I simply had to trust God regardless of the outcome.
Is there a “stone” in your life that God needs you to move before He can show you His answers? Or have you done enough “rolling” and now it’s time for you to let go? Take some time to think about what might be keeping a solution, answer, or result out of your reach. Should you roll or should you trust? If you should roll, then keep rolling with all your strength; if you should trust, then trust Him with all your heart. Then, when you know you have done your part, sit back and watch God fulfill His end of the bargain. He will! He has promised to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine!5
1 John 11:35
2 John 11:39 CEV
3 John 11:39 CEV
4 John 11:40 CEV
5 Ephesians 3:20 NIV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International