One day a farmer´s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn´t worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer´s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.
The Moral of the Story: Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. What happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you react to it. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step upward!
I recently came across this fable and thought of several Biblical principles that can be applied. The poor donkey found himself in a seemingly impossible situation. He cried for help and the one that came was the farmer. The donkey’s owner also judged the predicament as impossible and the best solution he saw was to put the donkey out of its misery. Notice he recruited his neighbors to help him as he worked to help the donkey the best way he knew how – throwing dirt one shovelful at a time.
There are certainly times in life when we have dirt thrown on us. We are tempted, tried, persecuted, and brought down low. This ‘dirt’ can come from a variety of sources – those we work with, ones we consider friends, family members, situations in life, and sometimes even ourselves. When our focus is on the dirt, we will get buried. The donkey initially began crying even more fervently when he realized what was being done. However, he quickly changed his tone when he discovered that what was intended to bury him could save him. The same can applied to our lives. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). The ‘dirt’ that is thrown on us can work to make us complete in Christ by producing perseverance which leads to perfection, completion, a lack of nothing.
The effect the dirt has depends on our reaction to it. One line in the moral of the story said, “What happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you react to it.” How true this is! What do you do with the dirt that is thrown on your back? Cry hopelessly, drown yourself in pity, give up? or Do you . .
Look upward. Psalm 61:2 says, “From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” There is nothing that happens to us in this life that we cannot take before our Creator. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19). The terminology in the original Hebrew of one who has a “broken heart” and “contrite spirit” carries with the thought of being “crushed” or “broken down.” Through these times, the Lord hears and delivers from all troubles.
Shake the dirt off your back. The Hebrew writer wrote about laying aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us . . . (Hebrews 12:1). This carries with it the thought of not allowing anything to weigh us down spiritually. The mindset to shake off any “dirt” that life throws at us and not allowing it to weigh us down. Think of the donkey, if he hadn’t taken the actions he did it would not have taken long for the amount of dirt to be so overwhelming that his hope of survival would have been lost. While our initial reaction to “dirt” might be to cry, we must quickly begin to shake it off, giving us the opportunity to rise up.
Put one foot in front of the other. The conclusion of the verse mentioned above (Hebrews 12:1) says, “ . . . and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” The Christian life is not a stagnant one. It requires hard work, persistence, and action! Our adversary is certainly always on the move (1 Peter 5:8), thus we must be people of action in order to defeat him. The donkey would have lost his life if he had chosen to stand there and continue to cry out helplessly. Instead, he chose to start moving his feet; this movement saved his life. Our movement through trials can make or break us as well. Christ said in Luke 12:34, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The word “strive” in Greek literally means to “agonize.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the word as “to contend with adversaries, fight, struggle with difficulties and dangers antagonistic to the gospel.” It is putting one foot in front of the other no matter what “dirt” is thrown on our back.
Use the “dirt” as an opportunity to grow and become stronger. James 1:2-4 (earlier mentioned verses) elaborates on this point. James begins these verses with “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” What point is James trying to make? Be thankful for the “dirt” because it can work to build a better you. When we trust the words of Romans 8:28, we will look for ways to learn and grow through every circumstance of life. The donkey used the dirt thrown on his back to save his life. Even though the dirt was intended to bury him, he used it to work for good. Likewise, we can use what is thrown on our backs to make us stronger children of God.
Another consideration from the fable is the farmer. He should have been the one that the donkey could rely on for safety and protection. In his hopelessness, however, he was the one throwing the dirt and employing his neighbors to do the same. We can have full confidence in the Lord that He will not parallel these actions. He is always with the righteous and ready to help in our time of need. Psalm 34:15 reads, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” As Christian women, our responsibility is to conduct ourselves in righteousness knowing that God will help us when the ‘dirt’ is being heaped upon our backs.
To conclude, there are other lessons that could be gleaned from this fable – never give up, think positive, keep calm, etc. All of these things also helped the donkey get out of the well. The question to ask yourself is, “What do I do when life shovels dirt on my back?” Hopefully, this simple fable can be brought to our minds and help us deal with “dirt” in a way that makes us stronger women of God.
By Jennifer Paden
Jennifer and her husband worship with the Royse City church of Christ where her husband has been preaching for nine years. They have three children – Mya (almost 5), Seth (3 1/2), and Gwen (1). Jennifer graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with a degree in Education and taught for nine years. After their first daughter was born, she has been blessed to be able to stay at home with my children. She has been able to participate in mission work, spending eight weeks in Russia during college and traveling to Jamaica twice for two-week mission trips. She enjoys teaching Bible class, Ladies’ class, and has been privileged to speak at Ladies’ Days.