This is the proverbial house built upon shifting sands versus the house built upon rock. Or the tree that is shallow rooted, versus the tree that has grown deep roots and can withstand drought, strong winds, harsh winters.
The purpose of Saturn is to build the skills of resourcefulness, resilience, patience, persistence, the ability to endure, to survive, to keep going regardless of how difficult things get, to rely upon oneself.
Saturn can be seen as a Threshold Guardian - if we pass the test, if we hold on instead of giving up then we will be allowed through to the next level of power, of skill, of success. This is why, in all areas of life, periods of frustration and challenge, of seeming failure, are often followed by sudden breakthroughs - if we will keep going.
Saturn forces us to face our fears and to dig deeper. We may be taken to breaking point - all the comfort and outside approval taken away, all the gloss removed, our own belief in our abilities shaken - and that is when we get to decide - is this relationship, job, project, whatever, worth it?
The Nine of Wands is a brilliant depiction of this moment of testing. Battered and bruised, still he defends his position - but is what he is defending worth the price he is paying?
If it is not then his efforts are wasted - he has built his house on shifting sand and would do better to let go and build elsewhere. But if what he defends represents some inner truth, a deep rooted - yes, this is mine - then he would do well to hang on in there, to keep going, to see it through.
The ultimate Saturn prize is a hand-made, authentic life, filled with people, projects and places we are deeply committed to, that are a reflection of who we truly are and a growing confidence in our ability to withstand the difficult times and keep going and not let go of that which we truly love.