Three very large and destructive hurricanes struck the United States and the Caribbean Islands the last few weeks. Pictures of the destruction left behind were heartbreaking. Buildings and other structures were completely destroyed.
People will be recovering from the storms for weeks, months, and—in some cases–even years to come. One of the videos that was shown by almost every report I watched included palm trees. This is because they would bend, but not break.
One such palm tree was on the island of St. Kitts. It bent—sometimes almost in half–but would not break. It became a symbol of hope for the residents there. They named it Hector, after the Trojan prince who stood valiantly against the Greek army during the Trojan War.
I grew up in Miami, and I witnessed this amazing scene several times in my family’s yard. Every time a hurricane hit us, all of the screening on our back porch was blown out. At least one or two of our orange, grapefruit, or avocado trees would be blown over. But our palm trees survived every storm–only losing a frond or two.
It reminds me of a truth in God’s Word that applies well to our marriages. We read in Psalm 92:12-13: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.”
These verses tell us that we–and our marriage—“will flourish” if we are “righteous.” The word translated “flourish” here is the Hebrew word “parah.” It is an agricultural term that means to sprout, bud, and blossom.
The word translated “righteous” is the Hebrew word “saddiq.” It means conformity to the standards set out by God. When the psalmist writes “planted in the house of the Lord,” he also means to have the truth of God as the foundation of our lives. We find these standards and truth in His Word.
That’s why we read in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
We are also told in 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
This means if we live by God’s Word and follow it in our life and marriage, we will flourish. Our marriage will blossom into all He desires it to be. We will be instruments for His glory. No matter what storms may come into our marriage, we will flourish. We may bend, but we will not break. This is His promise to us.
I searched to discover what about a palm tree allowed it to bend and not break during a storm.
One is a palm tree’s root system. If you ever tried to dig up a palm tree to move it (as my dad and I did once), you would find several things. It has a large root ball at its core. Fibrous roots fan out from the ball to great distances and also go down deep. All of this combines to give a palm tree a very solid base in the ground. Combine that with a very supple trunk that bends in the wind without breaking, and you can understand why it would take an incredibly strong wind to pull it out by its roots or break it.
God tells us often about the importance of having strong, deep roots in our Christian walk. We read about this when Jesus told the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. The sower in the story is the believer spreading the seed or Gospel message wherever he goes.
The seed falls on different types of soil. And every type produces a different result. Thus every person responds to the Gospel message depending on his readiness to receive it.
One place the seed falls is on ground filled with rocks. This seed grows into a plant, but it dies quickly. Jesus explains the meaning of this in Matthew 13:20-21: “‘The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.’”
The seed on rocky ground cannot grow deep, strong roots. So the plant cannot survive. We cannot survive—and neither can our marriage–without being strongly rooted in God’s truth.
A second reason a palm tree can withstand tremendous storms is that it grows from the center out. Most trees have branches and leaves growing ever further outward and upward. But the palm tree has only a few branches and leaves–called fronds–at the top of the tree.
Most trees also are constantly adding external layers of bark as they age. This is because most trees receive much of their nourishment through the external means of leaves and layers of bark. But the palm tree is renewed from within as it stores nutrients obtained from its roots.
A righteous person is constantly being renewed from within by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in him. Our spiritual nourishment is drawn from time spent in God’s Word and in prayer. The Holy Spirit uses that time to teach us God’s desires for us, and then He empowers us to do them.
Jesus promised in John 14:26: “‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’”
God says in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Finally, the palm tree is an evergreen. It doesn’t lose its fronds in the fall. It is always in season. In the same way, the righteous person is always full of life. She grows in grace, is always vibrant and valuable, and is always flourishing as the years go by.
The promise of God for the righteous person is that there will be life, growth, and productivity, not just for a season, but for an entire lifetime. The Psalmist concludes Psalm 92 in verses 14-15: “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” The righteous endure, and their productivity only increases as the years go by.
This can be true for us and our marriage as we come to know God’s Word and live by it. We can be like the palm tree when storms come—bending, but never breaking–with God’s guidance and strength.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching, and discuss ways God spoke to you through it.
♦ Is the truth found in God’s Word the root and sustenance of your marriage? How are you making sure it is? Studying God’s Word and praying together is a way to make certain God’s truth is the foundation of your marriage.
♦ Are you going through a difficult time? Are you bending and trying not to break in the midst of one of life’s storms? Again, staying close to each other and to God is the way to do that.
♦ Are you preparing yourself for the storms that life in this sin-stained world are going to bring your way? Again, we do that by staying close to God and each other. There is no other way. Go here to find the free tool we offer to help you with this: Couple Connect.
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you prepare for the storms that will come, or help you through the storm you going through now together. Thank Him that He will not only be with you through the storms, but He will use them for your good (see Romans 8:28). Thank Him that He has given you each other to help you stand strong no matter what comes your way.
Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,