I remember listening to Joel Osteen give a talk a couple years ago, and he shared an idea that has always stuck with me.
Walking Through Difficulty and Struggle
He was talking about how to walk through difficulties and struggles. I know there are times when I struggle and feel far away from God. I might question God, wondering why a certain bad thing happened. For example, a few years ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I felt angry and scared. My dad was healthy and had always taken care of himself physically. And yet the cancer still came. It didn’t feel fair.
In This World You Will Have Trouble
It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t promise the circumstances of our lives will always be great. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). We can count on it. It’s impossible to get through life unscathed.
What Does God Promise?
But God does promise to be with us in the midst of our trouble. Psalm 46 says that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that God comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Be Like the Palm Tree
Psalm 92 says that the righteous will flourish like a palm tree (Psalm 92:12). In his talk, Joel described a time he visited a community in the aftermath of a hurricane. Many houses were destroyed. Several trees were uprooted and broken to pieces. But he noticed the palm trees were still standing.
He asked someone how the palm trees survived the storm. A person told him that palm trees are designed to bend. When the storms come, palm trees can bend quite a lot, even to the point of being horizontal to the ground. But they don’t break.
During the storm, you might look at the palm tree flattened against the ground and think it’s a goner. But when the storm dies down, the palm tree is able to stand upright again.
Also, scientists have found when the storm is over and the palm tree stands upright again, the palm tree is actually stronger than it was before the storm. It comes back from the storm better and stronger than ever.
God Isn’t Done With You Yet
What a beautiful metaphor for how God made us. We live in a world where storms hit. Sometimes the storms are impossible to avoid. Sometimes the storms are difficult to explain. But God made us like the palm tree, able to withstand even the most difficult storms. If you’re alive, it means that God isn’t done with you yet. And when the storm is over, we are able to recover and stand upright again, even stronger than before.
Discussion: How do you make sense of the storms of your life? Have you experienced the “bend but not break” aspect of what it means to be human? How have you experienced growth following a storm?