Christian Living

Keep Running the Race: A Lesson from the Land Crab

A lesson on overcoming obstacles to run with perseverance.

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 for many, I know. And with all the crime, hatred, and violence exploding around the world it’s no wonder. Or perhaps you even faced personal difficulty. Unemployment, the loss of a love one, or severe health issues. 

Or maybe your year has been marked more by personal failure than external trials. Perhaps you made a few steps forward 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 what you shouldn’t have said. Reacted in a wrong way. Or let negative, selfish thoughts rule your heart.

Life can be tough and sometimes we make it rough all on our own!

As for me, external problems don’t usually get me down nearly as much as my own mistakes do! Rather than jumping back into the race, I have the tendency to keep berating myself.

The old pastor we got saved under in Colorado, way back in the ancient year of 1982 would often say, “I kill the old man off every day. But he keeps wanting to come up out of the grave!” That dear pastor was in his 70s at the time. And I think his secret was that he just kept going. Even though he knew he was imperfect, as we all are.

Whether they just happen or we cause them ourselves, trials are tough and discouraging. and they often leave us feeling battered, bruised, and maimed.

We have 3 choices in such moments.

We can desparingly question “Why me?” Or beat ourselves up for failing. Or we can get up and keep running. Like in this unusual story that shows the beauty of our bruises, our battle scars, and missing pieces.

It’s the story of the strange conduct of a land crab.

“One of the most useful pioneer evangelists of the Samoan mission was Teava, who, after many years of active services returned to Rarotonga. Though very feeble and bent with age, his place in the sanctuary was never vacant; and he was ever ready with a word of exhortation. And on one occasion he said…”

“When I laboured at Tutuila I often felt rebuked by the strange conduct of a large species of land-crab, called there the mali’o, here the tupa. 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.”

[From The Biblical Illustrator, Matthew 5; in the Public Domain.]

If you had a hard year, no matter why, there’s an important lesson for us the land crab.

What counts is that we keep going.

The land crab faces all kinds of difficulty in his trek. He has to climb over rocks, go around plants, and run the risk of predators. He gets covered with sand and filth. But he doesn’t let such obstacles stop him.

He throws them to the side and keeps going. Unfortunately thinking that to do so he must cut off his legs. When all he needs is to continue to the sea, and let the water wash him clean.

God allows difficulty in our lives too because he wants us to learn to overcome and keep going.

But we’re a lot like that crab. We foolishly forget that all we have to do is go to the Lord and let him wash away our filth and debris. And we struggle along on our own.

Perhaps we don’t tear our limbs off or pull our hair out. But we berate ourselves or lament our circumstances, and take our eyes off the goal. And we get scarred and bruised in the process. Pretty silly isn’t it, when we have plenty of help available?

We can’t know what the new year ahead will hold. Surely trials along with the blessings. But let’s remember that God allows trials to help us. Yes, they may cause wounds and missing pieces.

But they are, in the end, blessings in disguise! And if we stop trying to battle alone, we may even come out with fewer scars and missing pieces. The Lord allows trials to teach us how to overcome and persevere.

Because he’d rather we reach the finish line blind and lame than not make it at all!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

James 1:2-4

[Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay.]


  1. 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! 🙂 )


    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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