Unable to Withstand

How many years had the old oak stood its ground? For how many generations had it provided shade, rest, and perhaps residence for woodland creatures? From its size, well over a century. With this world’s cyclical weather patterns, alternating between periods of frigid low temperatures and sweltering highs, it survived both ice storms and drought for many years. During the dryness of this year’s season of drought, it could no longer withstand the stresses of this world; nature took its toll. Falling across our country road near my neighbor’s house, moving it would require heavier equipment than I had.

Looking at how the giant tree had split and fallen, two thoughts entered my mind. First, it was easy to recognize how the tree had been diseased for many years and the signs had likely gone unnoticed. Next, I thought of how this old tree was a metaphor for man’s struggle to withstand the forces of this world. I wondered, was it the heart rot that caused the tree’s death, frost cracks, or the strong, hot winds of this dry summer? I suspect a combination of all these factors.

Understanding that all my readers may not have spent as much time studying trees and nature as others, I’ll provide some background. As shown in the photo, there are two basic types of wood in any tree. Sapwood is the light-colored wood just beneath the tree’s bark, and the heartwood is the darker-colored wood in the center. All wood starts as sapwood. Sapwood is the living, life-giving wood that transports water and nutrients back and forth (from roots to leaves) throughout the tree. Trees form heartwood when the sapwood becomes non -functioning, often blocked with resins, tannins, and oils that prevent it from transporting material through the tree. As the sapwood dies off, or dries up, it creates heartwood. While heartwood lends itself to a tree’s stability, it is no longer part of the transport system and considered non-vital to the tree’s growth.

Woodturners always prefer heartwood because of its stability. It doesn’t shrink or dry out as much and its depth of color and texture is far superior. Other things that add character to wood often lead to a tree’s death. For example, a burl is most often created by injury, illness, or disease. Like scar tissue, a burl attempts to cover up and fuse together a spot on a tree’s trunk or branch. Its faster growth than the rest of the tree produces a tight, curly texture that creates highly prized and valuable wood. Another example of creating beauty through a tree’s illness is called spalting. Spalting is a vein-like discoloration within wood resulting from a fungal infection in the wood. Often found in fallen or dead trees laying on the forest floor, spalting can also occur in trees under significant stress like drought conditions. Both unique wood conditions are highly sought by woodworkers.

Sometimes adversity can lead to beauty; other times, it can lead to death. #OvercomeAdversity #BeautifulGrowth #StandStrong #SustainYourFaith Share on X

In this oak tree’s life, I suspect there were many injuries. Fallen limbs, maybe a lightning strike, or some other injury that allowed a fungus or harmful bacteria to get inside and begin decaying the mature heartwood. Another way it may have happened could be through frost cracks as the bark expanded when warmed by the sun and contracted during freezing temperatures overnight. However it happened, heart rot, where the infected heartwood turns to powder and creates a hollow or void within the tree, weakened the tree’s structural integrity. As a drought worsens and there’s very little water left for the roots to absorb, the sapwood begins drying out and dying off. As the tree becomes less stable, it cannot withstand the hot winds blowing against it and it collapses.

Is your heartwood able to withstand the outside forces seeking its destruction? #SustainYourFaith #OvercomeAdversity #StandStrong #CrossDubya Share on X

Contemplating what happened to this once beautiful and majestic tree, I couldn’t help but compare it to my spiritual life. I asked God to show me where I’m allowing sin and worldliness to infect my soul and lead to heart rot. I also considered what things I can do to prevent that from happening both in my personal life and in the life of my local church body. We need mature heartwood in our lives that stabilizes and holds us together, but we need the vigor of new sapwood to ensure our continued growth and existence. Otherwise, we too can become weak and subject to the destructive forces all around us.

The answers I came up with for both is to:

  • Stay in the true, unchanging word of God, so His living water continues to flow throughout our lives.
  • Continue standing strong with others in fellowship and supporting one another.
  • Seek God’s help through fervent prayer to withstand the illness, injury, or trials that seek to weaken and overtake us.

Many of us across this nation are suffering through various seasons of drought or flooding in our lives. Know that I’m praying for each one of you to stand strong and endure to the end of our race.

God’s blessings,


50 thoughts on “Unable to Withstand”

  1. Good morning, JD!
    It is so beautiful how God teaches us spiritual truths through the wonders of creation. Thanks for finding and sharing some of those through the example of this old tree today. Still praying for rain ☔️ over the Cross Dubya and surrounding areas!

  2. God’s creations are amazing and truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing information about trees. Like the trees, we need nourishment and constant care in order to thrive. Staying in God’s Word daily helps nourish, refresh, and renew the body, mind, and soul. Another great message JD! Blessings to you and Ms. Diane.

  3. Yvonne Morgan

    Thanks for the education on trees. I will now watch them a little closer.

    Thanks for using the things of nature to help us connect with God too. I pray I never get heart rot in my faith life. Praying for rain for the ranch and other areas experiencing drought. God bless.

  4. This is so good. And so hopeful. My wounds can become objects of beauty in my Artist’s hands. Thank you for educating me on the marks I love in wood and how they relate to us. I’ll look at them with new appreciation. Kind of like pearls.

  5. I enjoyed learning more about trees. My dad (and his dad) along with my older brothers saw-milled for a long while and I’ve always thought that’s where my love and appreciation for wood derives. But your post teaches me things I didn’t know.

    As always, I’m refreshed by the spiritual message as well. God teaches us so much through nature!

  6. Oh, JD! I just love this illustration of the tree and heart rot. After battling cancer this past year, I have prayed regularly that my heart stays supple and my hope remains steadfast in Jesus the Great Healer. It’s easy to doubt and get discouraged when an injury occurs. However, I’m ever grateful for the Living Word and the precious Holy Spirit.
    The key is staying attached to the Vine! Your story so eloquently teaches just that!
    Blessings, my friend.

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Martha. He sure is ma’am. Praying your continued growth also, as you work to grow those following in your example ma’am.

  7. Edwina Cowgill

    It’s always a blessing to read your blogs, especially as you draw your subjects from nature and relate them to spiritual matters!

    Blessings to you and Miss Diane!

    1. The blessing is reading your comment here ma’am; knowing of your injuries and the pain you’re in. Am blessed beyond measure by your kindness. Thank you Ms. Edwina and know Ms. Diane and I are praying daily for your full recovery ma’am.

  8. I always learn something from you my friend and I just am always in awe of how God made all of creation with such similarities and how beautifully you apply it to spiritual truths.

    1. Yes ma’am. God never ceases to amaze and astound me with how everything He created fits together so perfectly and helps us to understand His sovereignty.

  9. I love the insights here. I didn’t know much about tree growth previously and I always love learning. And your spiritual truth, as always is spot on!

    1. Thank you Ms. Loretta. Am humbled by your encouraging words ma’am. Still praying your full recovery my friend.

  10. Enjoyed this lesson on trees and the difference between sapwood and heartwood. This point really spoke to me, “Stay in the true, unchanging word of God, so His living water continues to flow throughout our lives.” Yes! And the analogy to the world reminded me of this passage:

    “Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
    but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
    He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
    that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
    In all that he does, he prospers.
    The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

    Psalm 1:1-4 ESV

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Nancy. I pray daily that God might grow me enough one day to live up to all the kind words my friends think and say about me. God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Dottie. I just knew you would appreciate this metaphor ma’am. And yes, like your gardens, God uses all living things and creatures around us as His classroom; teaching us and reminding us of how inter-connected we all are in His universe. Isn’t that just like God? He smiles when He sees us starting to get something He’s spent our entire lives trying to show us. I wondered how many downed trees I’ve seen in my life and simply ignored them (beyond looking before stepping over them of course). 😀

  11. The fact that God has so many lessons to teach us through the living world around us would go unnoticed if he didn’t stick guys in the midst of it who recognize the spiritual beauty on parade in a piece of burl and who understand how vital it is to get the nutrients from the ground to the branches waving scores of feet above. Having gotten to the “old oak” stage of life, I couldn’t help checking out the mechanism and asking whether I’m getting the nourishment of God’s Word to the parts that need it. Obviously, I don’t want the heart to begin to rot and I the protective encouragements you offered are powerful counteractive forces against it. With the many kinds of drought that are plaguing our nation and our world right now, we need an inner strength that won’t fall apart under the pressure. There are younger oaks beginning to grow around us. Maybe we can shelter them from the blistering sun and the wind a bit as they grow. So much to contemplate, as usual, my friend. God bless you for taking a picture of an old oak tree’s exposed and broken heart to inspire fresh appreciation for the incredible truths that emerge when we open our own hearts to the One who was broken for us.

    1. “Old oak stage”; I’ve got to borrow that one sir. I’m glad to report though that your heartwood is robust, dense, well-figured, and yet pliable enough to be turned, sanded, and polished into a vessel worthy of being placed front and center in God’s display shelf. Thank you for all your kind words my friend. Am humbled by the and your steadfast belief in me sir.

  12. We’ve just had a series of storms here resulting in many fallen branches and trees through the community. I so want to be able to stand fast through whatever storm God allows to come my way. May I allow adversity to draw me closer to Him and increase my dependence on Hos Word.

    1. Amen Ms. Barbara. Am facing our own version of storms (in this case, dust) here Ms. Barbara. Like you, I keep asking for His strength to withstand them. Thank you ma’am.

  13. Such fantastic application – Amen! I enjoyed learning more about trees, too, because we have a 300-year-old oak in our yard. Blessings to you in Christ! (And I’m joining you in prayer for rain in your area.)

  14. Another wise and inspiring message, my friend. And I learned a lot about trees, too! The questions you ask allow us to examine how we live out our faith and your answers are guidelines for us to put faith into action in service to our Lord. Thank you for blessings us today.

    1. Please know that I direct those questions and answers squarely at myself here Ms. Katherine. Thank you for your grace-filled support ma’am. The blessing was mine ma’am.

  15. David Brownlee

    Enjoyed learning about wood, and relating it to the human soul, the heart; and how our inner beings can develop/have rot. Having the Lord search and uncover the hidden heart rot is a daily need. To acknowledge, turn away and have the brightness of joy and soul contentment the Lord provides is invaluable.

    1. Thank you Mr. David. I’m very glad you enjoyed the post sir; and like you, I too need to make sure I’m protecting my heartwood from the rot and decay that is so pervasive in this world today. Well said sir. Best to you and the lovely Ms. Robin this day. God’s blessings sweet folks.

  16. You correctly identified the heart problem of people by comparing it to “heart rot” of the tree. That is the detriment of the human race and we must stay alert to guard our hearts because out of it come the issues of life. Thanks for this inspiring post, J.D.!

    1. Thank you Ms. Kathy. It’s nice to know that I can share something with you that pays back in a small part all that your posts have been teaching me in the past couple of years. Such a blessing you are little lady.

  17. I found this post so interesting. Though I love trees for their beauty and can identify many types of trees, there is a lot of information here I didn’t know. It is a profound truth that adversity can destroy us or make us more beautiful, Beauty for ashes so to speak, and you’ve demonstrated this beautifully in this post.

    I have been searching my heart a lot lately and your words have really spoken to me. Thank you, JD.

    1. Amen Ms. Terri. It’s in recognizing what’s going on inside us that gives us the strength we need to face all that is going on outside us my friend. God’s blessings; and know I’m praying.

  18. A vivid reminder that even the strongest can become fragile. One event can cause destruction and death when left unattended. We must be attentive to things that can erode us from the inside out. It DOES matter what others can’t see. The Bible tells us that it is not just appearance but rather the heart, the inside, that makes the difference. Guess that goes for oak trees, too! (You sure know a lot about trees. So interesting.)

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