The day my sister-in-law’s father died, she pulled into the driveway of her parents’ home wrung dry with grief and witnessed a full rainbow arched right over the roof of the house. It was, she told me later, a sign from God, a sign of hope, peace and comfort in the midst of sadness and dispair.
Just a few weeks later, as my mother-in-law lay dying in a hospital bed in her family room, I looked for a rainbow, too. I looked every day, scanning the cloudless Nebraska horizon for signs of rain. I wanted that rainbow so badly. I wanted a sign from God that he was near, that he hadn’t abandoned us in our grief.
One late afternoon I watched as clouds gathered and the rain came pouring down onto the hot concrete. It was a sun shower; the conditions were ripe for a rainbow. I leapt up from my office desk, ran down four flights of stairs and out the back door and stood in the parking lot in the rain. I walked around the whole perimeter of the building, scanning the sky from every angle.
There was no rainbow that day or any other. And quite frankly, I was mad about that. Would it be so hard? I remember griping to God. Would it be so much skin off your nose to give me a little sign, a little peace, a little reassurance here, please?
I remembered those hard weeks and the days I searched for a rainbow when I read the lesson for this week. At first Jesus’ response to the Roman official who approaches him with the request to heal his child seems abrupt, even harsh.
“Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” Jesus asks the Roman official. The man’s son is dying, and Jesus seems to be giving him a hard time.
The Roman official persists, asking Jesus a second time to heal his dying son, and Jesus responds by telling the man that his son will live.
The difference between the Roman official and me is that the Roman official takes Jesus at his word. He believes what Jesus says is true, without proof and without any concrete assurance. Jesus doesn’t accompany the man home to heal his child in person. He simply gives the man his word, and the man believes him. I, on the other hand, wanted the sign, the proof that God was present in the midst of my pain.
I don’t have anything against signs from God. I believe in them, and I believe that sometimes God does send us special messages this way. But the more important lesson here, I think, is the understanding that we don’t need a special sign from God, because we always have his promise in his word. This is what the Roman official knew, and what I so often forget.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” Jesus tells us. I don’t need a rainbow to know God is with me when I walk through the valley of fear and grief. I don’t need a sign or proof that he cares. He’s already told me; it’s right there in the Bible, in black and white. That promise is all the proof and assurance I will ever need.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you ever look for signs from God? Do you ever wish He would offer you proof, once and for all, that He is with you?
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