Keep Running the Race: A Lesson from the Land Crab

As this year draws toward its finish, I’d like to ask you a question. How has it treated you? It was a tough year worldwide with all the natural disasters, crime, and violence. And perhaps you, like many, faced personal difficulty like unemployment, the loss of a love one, or severe health issues. 

Or maybe like me, your year was marked more by personal failure. You took a few steps in your spiritual progress, only to discover that your old man wasn’t as dead as you thought he was. And you failed – yet again. Said things you shouldn’t have. Reacted in a wrong way. Or allowed negative, selfish thoughts to rule your heart.

Life can be difficult, and sometimes we even make it even harder!

I have the tendency to reprove myself over and over for my personal failures. And instead of killing off my old man, I give up and quit the race.

Our pastor years ago would often say, “I kill the old man off every day, but he keeps coming up out of the tomb!” But even so, he had managed to run the race over 70 years. Though likely often tempted to quit over problems, he chose to go forward.

And we face the same dilemma in difficult times.

We can either give up, asking “why me?” Or we can see that trials are for our own good, teaching us to overcome all obstacles. And keep running the race, as in the following story…


The story of the strange conduct of a land crab.

One of the most useful pioneer evangelists of the Samoan mission was a man named Teava, who, after many years of active service returned to his island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Though very feeble and bent with age, his place at church was never vacant; and he was ever ready with a word of exhortation. And on one occasion he said…

When I laboured on the island of Tutuila I often felt rebuked by the strange conduct of a large species of land-crab. It bores deep into the soil, the holes sometimes extending a considerable distance.

At night this crab loves to make its way to the sea, for the purpose of laving itself in the salt water and drinking it. Now it sometimes happens that, when hurrying through the tall grass and fern, some of its legs become defiled by contact with filth.

So great is the vexation of this crab at its mishap, that it delays its march to the sea in order to wrench off the offending legs! One may sometimes meet a mutilated individual hobbling along without two or three of its legs—a self-inflicted punishment!

In some rare instances it has been known to wrench off all its eight legs to escape defilement. It is then content to drag itself over the ground with considerable difficulty by means of its nippers, until it reaches its hole, where it hides until the legs partially develop themselves again, though not of their original length and beauty.

(Based on a story from The Biblical Illustrator – in the Public Domain.)


In this story we find the important lesson of going ahead, despite the obstacles.

The crab encounters many difficulties along the way. Rocks to climb over, plants to go around, and predators to avoid. And he gets covered with sand and filth.

But he doesn’t allow any obstacle to stop him. He overcomes and goes on, unfortunately thinking that to do so, he must tear his legs off. When all he really needs is to continue on toward the sea and let the water wash him clean.

And in the same way, God allows our difficulties to teach us to overcome and go forward.

We need to be more like that crab who didn’t want anything to stop him – even his own dirty legs! Not that I’m not suggesting we tear our legs off, or even pull our hair out. But we need to stay focused on the finish line – and get rid of whatever does impede us.

If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.

Matthew 5:30 WEB

Trials that come our way are difficult. And on top of that, our own failures get us down too. Life is full of both good and bad. Trials and blessings. Ups and downs.

But let’s remember that God allows the trials to help us. Yes, they can cause wounds and missing pieces. But in the end they are hidden blessings, allowed by the Lord to teach us to persevere and overcome.

How about you?

Do you have the tenacity of the land crab who keeps going despite difficulities? Or do often feel like throwing the towel in and hiding in your hole? Deciding that life is just too hard, the trial is too great, you give up.

Think about that a moment. When we give in to discourgement – what does it really change? The problem is still there. The trial doesn’t just disappear. It remains there, a thorn in our side, a mountain to scale.

The only thing that our discouragement and defeat change is our attitude, heart, and spirit.

So keep on fighting. And use the potent weapons the Lord has given us for the battle.

  • The oil of JOY for mourning (Isaiah 61:3).
  • The garment of PRAISE for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3).
  • PRAYER
  • BIBLE READING for renewing your mind (Romans 12:2).

And get back in the race…

Because God would rather we reach the finish line lame or blind, than not make it at all!

Trials are really only blessings in disguise.

Olive Tree Faith

4 thoughts on “Keep Running the Race: A Lesson from the Land Crab

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  1. Sheila, Thank you for this. Just today, I had lunch with my daughter, and I told her about two instances I felt guilty about – that I felt I neglected her when she was in middle school (she’s now 43). I remember apologizing to her at the time, but all this time I have felt guilty about it and have beat myself up and called myself a bad mother. She did not remember either time and reassured me that I was a good mom. We beat ourselves up when we should just go to the Father and leave it with Him. I had gone to the Father, but I hadn’t left it with Him. The Lord bless you and keep you dear one. Karen

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    1. So glad this post ministered to your heart, Karen. I think most parents suffer from guilt over child raising – even after our children are grown. Because we’ve all made mistakes and messed up. It’s wonderful that often are children are so understanding. And marvelous that our Lord is always so loving and forgiving!! The Lord bless you too, dear friend!

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  2. As you know, my husband will be facing a liver transplant in 2019. We know it won’t be easy. But we also know where our help comes from, and we will count every joyful blessing along the way as God provides those doses of spirit-strengthening encouragement. You are so right, Sheila: it’s downright silly to lament our circumstances and take our eyes off the goal, to live God’s way. He ALWAYS knows what’s best, ALWAYS comes alongside, ALWAYS provides the strength. (You have my permission to remind me of these statements in the aftermath of surgery! 🙂 )

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    1. No Nancy, that won’t be at all easy. But thankfully, the Lord always does all that you said, and more. Thankfully the Lord IS always. Keep us posted as the time draws nearer so that we can pray along with you. But don’t worry, I doubt I’ll have to remind you in the aftermath. The Holy Spirit will be by your side every second!

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