During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different. One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:
But instead, this is what we saw.
I stood there staring as I snapped this picture. The trees looked both silly and sad.
“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say. I am from the south, you know.
Andrea explained what had happened. The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees. Many were irreparably damaged…dead.
I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree. If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.
These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive. We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.
This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city. Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey. Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him. Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.
Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise. That is because Britt was full of hope and praise. He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God. There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial. In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.
I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities. One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives. It reminds me of those palm trees.
But you know what? Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured.
And they’re growing! If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.
Life is there!
Roots run deep!
James talked to believers about trials.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1: 2-4)
That word “consider” means to make a judgment. We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life. Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires? That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties.
Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be? Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind.
To abide means to endure without yielding.
So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.
It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering.
I don’t yield to unbelief. I don’t give in to giving up on God.
Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me. But I can’t produce that growth myself. Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.
Suffering hurts, no doubt about it. Long-term suffering takes a toll.
But what will others see in me beyond the damage?
Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit?
Is there green under my bark?
Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!