The story of the "The overloaded wagon"

I am currently reading Joanna Weaver's book "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World". In the book she tells the story of the "Overloaded Wagon" by Rosemarie Kowalski. 

Every woman will relate this story as we all do it from time to time, or perhaps all the time. It is a long story, so do set aside a little time to read it - it is SO worth it.  Its all about learning to say  "no" for the right reasons. 

And many thanks to blogger "Faithful Provisions" for having it all typed out so I didn't need to. 

Tomorrow I will list the suggestions from Joanna Weavers book on how to dump the rocks in our lives. Saying no can be difficult which is why we don't generally do it. 


The story is told of a man who met God in a lovely valley one day.  ”How are you this morning?” God asked the fellow. “I’m fine, thank you,” the man replied. “Is there anything I can do for you today?”

“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. Where would you like me to take it?”

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. He began to whistle as he walked quickly through the forest. The sun peeked through the trees and warmed his back. 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. People smiled and greeted him. Then, at the last house, a man stopped him and asked, “How are you this morning? What a nice wagon you have. Where are you off to?”

“Well, God gave me a job this morning, I’m delivering these three stones to the top of the hill.”

“My goodness! Can you believe it? I was just praying this morning about how I was going to get this rock I have up to the top of the mountains,” the man told him with great excitement. “You don’t suppose you could take it up there for me? It would be such an answer to prayer.”

The man with the wagon smiled and said, “Of course. I don’t suppose God would mind. Just put it behind the other three stones.” Then he set off with three stones and a rock rolling behind him.

The wagon seemed a bit heavier. He 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. Then he set off again and soon reached another small village at the side of the road.  A good friend lived there and offered him a glass of cider.

“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 finished the cider, then stood up and brushed his hands on his overalls before gripping the handle of the wagon. 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. Still, it felt good to help a friend. Surely 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 felt huge and awkward as it lumbered and swayed over the ruts in the road. Frustrated, the man was beginning to have visions of giving up and letting the wagon roll backward. God was playing a cruel game with him. The wagon lurched, and the load of obligations collided with the back of his legs, leaving bruises. “This is it!” he fumed. “God can’t expect me to haul this all the way up the mountain.”

“Oh God,” he wailed. “This is too hard for me! 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. I’m just not strong enough.”

As he prayed, God came to his side. “Sounds like you’re having a hard time. What’s the problem?”

“You gave me a job that is too hard for me,” the man sobbed. “I’m just not up to it!” God walked over to where the wagon was braced with a stone. “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 leave these things lying here.”

“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 you can bear.”

“I can do that!” said the man, grinning from ear to ear. He grabbed the wagon handle and set off once again, leaving the rest of the burdens beside the road. The wagon still lurched and jolted lightly, but he hardly noticed.

A new song filled his lips, and he noticed a fragrant breeze wafting over the path. With great joy, he reached the top of the hill. It had been a wonderful day, for he had done what the Lord had asked.



  1. So we shouldn't ask others to pray for us in our difficulties? Or is that not taking on their "belongings"?

    1. I thought about this as I was driving home. If you asked me to give you a hand, my neighbour asks me to mow her lawn, my children want things done too, my dad wants me to iron and the local school wants me to do tuck-shop and the church wants me to run a Sunday school — then its quite clear that my wagon is about to collapse under all the weight. I am going to have to say no to someone and that is where women in particular have difficulty.

      Praying on the other hand isn’t a physical thing, rather an emotional load. But it is one we give to the Lord when we pray to Him. So it can be done by almost everyone, including those who might be unwell or disabled (like my mother). However there will be some people so weighed down with problems of their own, that praying for too many people might be very difficult and stressful and they will need to think careful before offering prayers. If that makes any sense!!

      So I think this story relates more to psychical activities rather than prayers.

    2. Comment from visitor:

      The prayer one is interesting – you are right, prayer is taking a matter, and presenting it to God, for God to fix, not present to God and keep it for ourselves to fix. We let go entirely and move to that which God wants us to do – the Prayer has done its job, it has transferred a matter from us to Him. We can remember, and think on it, and where needed continue in communion with God about it, but not bear it.


  2. I found you on Wearing with Wisdom...what a wonderful story. I think praying for others is not a "load" on us. I think it helps us put perspective on our blessings as we try to "help" others. jodie

  3. I feel a bit torn about this story. I'm not sure it's a very good picture. And yet on the other hand it does seem to make some sense. I'll explain...
    I don't like it from the point of view that we ARE supposed to serve one another through life - others are supposed to be more important than ourselves (reaching out our hands to the poor and needy as in Prov 31, then there's Philippians 2:4 that tells us to not only look on our own things but also on others' things, then there's verses about loving and serving one another like Galatians 5:13-14) and we are supposed to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and help each other through life (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
    I also don't really know that God would dump everyone else's burdens on the side of the road... It just doesn't sit right with me. I realise that we can't take on everything for everyone, but we're also supposed to be servants... I think more than dumping everything out, God would be more likely to ask us why we didn't ask Him to help us carry the load!
    On the other hand, if God gives us a job to do, we should do it without turning to the left or right or stopping off on the way - we should single-mindedly serve Him.
    So it's all a bit confusing, really. I know we shouldn't over-extend ourselves to the point that we become useless or wear ourselves out. I do think it takes some discerning to decide what we SHOULD take on to begin with, and perhaps that is more where the problem lies than anything. We shouldn't ignore a brother or friend in need, we shouldn't desert them or rudely tell them we can't help... We need to be gentle and careful and perhaps offer an idea of where or how they could get help if we really can't help them.
    Just my few thoughts. Do you see what I'm say, or am I just rambling on?

    1. A few thoughts I've had -- been thinking about this story while I sew!!!

      - If a person is going to write a story that uses God in the illustration, I think it would be more God-honouring if the illustration wasn't used out of context or with disregard to other Scriptures. For example, God would never ask someone to carry a burden on their own - that's the whole point of the yoke (it's a two-person yoke) - we are placed in the yoke WITH Christ - it's HIS yoke and we pull it with Him.

      - The "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2) results in a person bearing others' burdens according to the Scriptures (yes, that requires discernment - it would have been better if in the story God had shown the man that he needed to use discernment before taking on burdens rather than God unceremoniously dumping the burdens by the side of the road); that law of Christ is not only not apparent in the story (the man tried - in the story it was GOD who told the man to dump the burdens) but in this story God hypocritically takes the burdens the man has tried to bear and tells him not to bother!! Christ and God are one - if it is the law of Christ to bear one another's burdens, then God is not going to do something that is contradictory to that!

      - This world is very much about me first, me, me, me... This story sounds a little bit like that; somewhat selfish - God is apparently teaching the man to disregard other people's needs and just worry about himself (ie. be selfish). That concerns me because it is anti-Scriptural.

      - Even if the man did lack discernment and had taken on burdens he shouldn't have, nowhere in Scripture is there any evidence that God would be okay with us just dumping those by the wayside and carrying on carefree - the Scriptures show us that once we start on something (especially something good), we should finish the job if at all possible - broken promises are not God's way! And if we can't finish the job, we should show kindness and grace to the person we set out to help, not just leave them and their burdens behind!

      Just a few thoughts... My mind keeps busy while I sew!! :D

    2. Comment from Stephen (blogger ate his previous comment!)

      Analogies are only able to be stretched to a point, it has its limitations as in this story.

      We often do things for others and people think that we are do a great job, one of God’s helpers, so dedicated, and this makes us feel good – nothing wrong with that, but as humans, we like the praise and forsome people, redouble their efforts, and become even more helpful, to the detriment of their own family usually, and they get more praise from everyone but their family, and they feel even better about themselves, as this drifts from being service for God, with glory to Him to service for self because I like the feedback – that is spiritual pride. ‘Am I not a spiritual person doing all of God’s work’.

      In fact Scripture says to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, and don’t expect a reward in heaven for things rewarded here on earth. Christians do need to carry burdens, and God may want that person to carry the burden they find difficult, purely to make them come to Him. If we take the burden from them, add it to our load, and either sink or enjoy the praise from others, the person God is working on to get them, closer to Him loses out on a blessing

      Incidentally, A.W. Tozer, a great writer and preacher, loses his gloss when one reads what his wife said. After he died, she remarried, and she says that this was when she realised what real marriage was like, Tozer was never home, and when home, always writing, and in all reality, neglected his family, which is not Scriptural. If one has a family, they come high up the list of priorities. One cannot be a travelling preacher and married, unless the children are grown up and the wife can travel as well. Paul travelled, Peter tended not too, the latter was married. He ended in Rome, perhaps after his wife died – we do not know but we do know that Paul did the main legwork. Are we helping the other because of me, or because of them, and if I do, am I neglecting any other responsibility God has given me (like family). If so, can I change my ways so I can do both properly, otherwise, it cannot be God’s will. He will not ask anyone to abandon family for ministry. He does expect us to be efficient and organised, and do what we can.

  4. I read this as taking on other peoples loads at the cost of our most important priorities (loads) — wanting to be helpful but unable to have dinner cooked on time because I am so busy at a school committee or out most evenings because I am helping others. As Stephen points out, sadly for some, the praise received for doing “good” starts to become very important and therefore the person takes on more and more — and like Tozer, never home looking after their most important loads (their family). Whilst it is good to help others (and yes we should as much as we can), we can only do so much and that is what I think the message was all about. And what we take on, needs to be what God wants us to take on and not what we want to do — one needs to be careful about what we load in our wagon and why we have decided to take on these extra loads. I also think some take reach out and help others when they can’t manage their own problems — perhaps because other peoples loads are more enjoyable, less stressful, but this results in their neglect of their own problems and not addressing them and perhaps God has loaded them up with these personal issues as a lesson and by not doing them, they are not walking with God.

    Whilst I agree that we should help others as much as possible — it does depend on where we are in life – a mother with young children should focus on her family, where as an older woman with grown up children has more time to dedicate to others, especially helping younger women.

  5. Visiting from Modest Mondays. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I think sometimes that we take on others burdens, maybe not so much physically but spiritually and that they then start to burden us. I know when I have friends that are wronged or going through tough times it becomes a burden on my heart. This isn't my burden and I should give it to God and continue to pray for my friends and allow God to deal with their situations instead of dealing with them myself. i enjoyed this story and I appreciate you sharing it with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    1. I have known people who do take on a lot of emotional stresses from others and it really does weigh them down to the point they can't cope with their own issues. I thought it was a thought provoking story that got me thinking about my loads.

      Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. I hadn't heard that story before. It's a good illustration.

    Thanks for sharing at #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup ...I've pinned your post!


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