Three rainbows: A lesson about God’s grace … not because of who we are, but because of who He is

The first rainbow was for my mom. 

It was a perfect double rainbow, burning brightly, spanning the sea, with the Alaskan coast in the distance. 

She saw it while on a cruise with my dad, one year after her diagnosis: Stage 4 breast cancer. One year – of painful treatments and difficult decisions and a scramble to jam as many memorable moments as we could into the short time left.  And that rainbow, so beautiful that even the staff on the cruise commented on its brilliance, was, to our family, a gift. A sign of God’s faithfulness. He had been with us through the valley of shadows behind. He would be with us through the ones ahead. 

A sign of God’s faithfulness.

The second rainbow was for my dad. 

It came a little more than a year later and just a few days after my mom passed away, suddenly, from a medical complication related to her cancer. My dad, sister and brother were working on funeral arrangements on a rainy day in Lubbock. When the rain stopped, and they stepped outside, there it was: another perfect double rainbow. My sister said Daddy just stood and looked up at it for a long time. It was, again, a sign. This time a sign, in the midst of heartache and loss, of God’s care and compassion. He had remembered our family. 

I wasn’t there to see that rainbow. 

My twin boys had only been home from the NICU a little more than a week when mom passed away, too quickly for us to have the chance to be there. And so, we were in the Dallas area, preparing for a six-hour car ride with our tiny children – a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and infant twins – that would get us to Lubbock the day before the funeral. 

It was an overwhelming prospect, in an overwhelming time. I struggled in my waking hours and dreaded going to bed … because it was when I tried to sleep that the weight on my soul became so heavy, so physically real, that I sometimes woke gasping to breathe. 

… I sometimes woke gasping to breathe.

I want to be very careful about what I say here. I was partly going through post-partum depression. And I feel no shame about that … nor should anyone who is dealing or has dealt with it. And if you are currently suffering from it, please do seek help and know it’s not something to feel guilt over in any way.  

But I was also dealing with the result of sin in my life.  It was the fallout of years of habitually choosing worry over trust in God. And that habit, combined with the post-partum issues, had me emotionally drained to the point I was barely functioning. I was not able to be there for my grieving family in the way that I wanted to be. My sin kept me from being as useful as I could have been. Kept me from serving God and my family. 

I made it through that week and those memorial services, by God’s grace. And it was a wonderful time of remembrance and of thankfulness for mom’s beautifully lived life. But also, for me, there was the struggle. And there was the guilt of knowing that my sin of worry … a sin I always thought affected me and me alone … had crippled me at a time when I was needed. 

I shared this guilt and this struggle with my dear friend Stephanie the morning after the funeral. I asked for her prayers as I continued to fight the worry in my life … I cried with her. And then I walked her outside to her car. 

And then I saw it: the third rainbow. My rainbow. 

A gift of grace to me, despite my sin.

It was so beautiful … two bands of color, lighting up the grey sky. A gift of grace to me, despite my sin. My rainbow was also a sign: a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness. 

I serve a God who is faithful in the hardest of trials. A God who cares for us in the deepest of sorrows. And, praise Him, a God who is merciful … who embraces us even at our lowest point and forgives us. 

“The rainbow appears when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing; God then shows this seal of the promise, that it shall not prevail.” –Matthew Henry

Even when it’s our fault. Even when it’s what we deserve. The rain shall not prevail. He still will show His beautiful mercy. Not because of who we are, but who He is. 

He still will give the rainbow.