By Steve Wyatt
I visited Pinetop, Arizona two years after my late wife, Cindy, and I had spent a week there. It was after her initial rounds of radiation and chemo and we had gone there to celebrate the “end” of her cancer. Two weeks later she had a seizure, and what we thought was the end was just the beginning.
We hiked a new trail every day. One morning, still fatigued from the effects of chemo, she paused to rest a bit. As she sat on a rock sipping from her water bottle, I snapped a picture I will forever treasure. Cindy smiled her unforgettable smile—the last of such smiles that wouldn’t also be accompanied by lines marred by worry and intense fear.
Two years later, I returned to that spot and sat on the rock where Cindy sat. I brought a few flowers, a song we shared, plus countless memories. I also brought many tears.
A Difficult Question
After several minutes I screwed up the courage to ask her for one more act of love—the kind of full, fierce, and faithful love Cindy had always shown me.
I told her how lonely I’d become, though I suspect she already knew. Then I described the huge, gaping hole her absence had left in my heart. And though I assured her I couldn’t imagine any other love being quite like the love we had shared, there was something I needed to ask her. Truth is, I felt guilty even as I asked— or I was desperately hoping the fears about my future would prove wrong.
Finally, I said it: “Honey, it is not good for this man to be alone. You already know that. So . . . could you maybe give me a sign that it’s okay if I ever decide it’s worth the risk to find another love?”
I had no clue what sign to ask for. I wasn’t even sure it was an acceptable thing to ask. And yet, I had to ask.
Please don’t pick at the gnats in my grief-stricken theology. I understand that my only entrée into Heaven is through Christ. And I knew then, even as I voiced my request, that this was, in fact, a three-way call. I was opening my heart about Cindy, but I was speaking through Jesus to the Father. And the Spirit helped me voice my need though, at times, I could only manage a groan (see Romans 8:26).
Hours later, I drove into town to get something to eat while talking on the phone to my daughter Andrea. She was relating another tale of her tribe, and as Papa listened, I began aimlessly driving right through Pinetop and nearly to Show Low (about 10 miles or so).
An Encouraging Sight
All of sudden, I realized I was driving through a pounding rain shower. The sun was nestled just above the horizon, and as its rays shone through the showers, I saw a rainbow. Then I noticed it was a double rainbow.
Dissolving into tears, I said, “Andrea, I see a double rainbow! I gotta go! Okay? I’ll explain later.”
I pulled my truck to the side of the road, stepped out into the rain, and was greeted by another double rainbow. Then a single. And another single. All told, seven rainbows filled the sky.
Trembling, I snapped some pictures and then fell against my truck completely overcome. I was drenched, but I didn’t care. And as I leaned, I drank in God’s amazing scene—or should I say, “sign.”
Though slack-jawed and astonished, I knew in a flash: Cindy had just asked Jesus to ask the Father to help me. And as she did, she fully, fiercely, and faithfully loved me once more by giving me her enthusiastic blessing.
But then, why didn’t I get an equally amazing answer to my prayer for God to heal Cindy? I don’t know. I’ve asked that question, too.
Even so, the rainbows strangely assured me that God was still very much with me. And that Cindy was still watching out for me . . . and loving me.
Hope in the Storm
I didn’t remember it then, but I did later. It’s a line from an old hymn by Scottish preacher George Matheson. George had been engaged to his beloved fiancée until she learned he was going blind. She couldn’t do life with a blind man, so George lost his love, too.
Years later, his sister, who had assisted him in transcribing his messages, was about to marry. So George would soon lose her, too.
Losing his sister to her love had rekindled the reminder of his own lost love. So George, caught in his own storm of unbridled grief, sat down and wrote an entire hymn in under five minutes. In a lesser known verse of “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” he wrote, “O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.”
This wasn’t Pollyanna. Matheson described his life elsewhere as an “obstructed life, a circumscribed life . . . but a life of quenchless hopefulness.”
Boy could I resonate with that!
So how did George’s vision of hopefulness find its shape? He did what I’ve learned to do—he did as his song says. He traced a rainbow through the rain.
Remember when God told Noah the rainbow would be the sign of his everlasting covenant? But not just for a leathery skinned boatbuilder. God said, “Whenever I bring clouds . . . and the rainbow appears, whenever the rainbow appears . . . I will see it and remember” (see Genesis 9:13-16, emphasis added).
God is still setting rainbows. And one day up in Pinetop, he set seven for me. At first, I didn’t see it quite as clearly as George wrote it. But in time, I came to learn that my seven rainbows were teaching me a truth about brokenness that would be the sign of an undeniable healing and my undiminished hope: Even in the midst of a raging storm, I have a promise I can lean on. Even in a pounding downpour, there will come a ray of light.
A Promise to Lean On
Every rainbow God sets, he means to be traced. Even in the middle of a storm shower, God will set out a promise I can lean on. A sliver of hope. A shred of utterly reliable and indomitable truth. Just enough for me to stand on, but even more, to trace back to hope.
That storms happen is inevitable. The rain falls on all of us, the Bible says (Matthew 5:45). No one is immune—not George; not me.
But had it not been for the rain, I could never have traced even one of my rainbows. Which is important since so many people get so discouraged by the rain—which is why so many stay confused, stuck, and unhealed. What we need to do is what God means for us to do. We need to look past the raindrops and beyond the storm and make the faith decision to trace the promise God has set before us.
Looking for the Promise
And when we make that trace? At the end of the rainbow, we find faith. And it is beneath our traced-out rainbow where fear dies a thousand deaths. Here’s how I made my trace.
I admitted I needed a rainbow. I did as Peter said we all must do: “Humble yourselves” (1 Peter 5:6a). I decided, early in my grief, not to cover it up. Never to pretend. Because a heartache can never be conquered until it is openly and honestly confessed. So I embraced my anguish and felt every emotion God intended for me to feel.
I’m sure some feared I would never recover. I certainly feared that. But as I sat on Cindy’s rock, I admitted my need.
Then I did another thing. I committed my need “under God’s mighty hand” (1 Peter 5:6b). I took it, sometimes only for brief moments, but I placed it under his care. I entrusted to him the remaining chapters of my story. I drove a stake in the ground and said, “Lord, it’s your problem now. I cannot bear this burden a second longer.”
I did as Peter said we all must do: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Then I did as George instructed. I traced my rainbow. My rainbows didn’t appear as the storm clouds formed. But “in due time,” they arrived. And that’s exactly how God promises it will happen.
“In due time . . . he will lift you up.” It doesn’t say, “in no time.” It says, “in due time.” In God’s time. When God says, “When.”
Like George Matheson, you may be leading what you consider an obstructed life. Your story doesn’t read as you’ve written it. Like me, God may not answer you as you think he should.
But here’s the thing: he will answer. And even as the storm is raging, he will set a rainbow.
What happens then is up to you. Here’s what I did. I admitted I needed a rainbow. I committed my need as the raindrops were still falling. I traced my rainbows as soon as they appeared.
And I can humbly tell you I am living, and loving, once again! And my life is full of “unquenched hopefulness.”
Steve Wyatt is a minister and freelance writer in Anthem, Arizona.
Comfort for Widows and Widowers
On the Web
“Christian Websites for Widows” from Widow’s Christian Place
From One Widow to Another: Conversations on the New You
by Miriam Neff
(Moody Publishers, 2009)
Grace for the Widow: A Journey Through the Fog of Loss
by Joyce Rogers
(B & H Publishing Group, 2009)
Believe: A Young Widow’s Journey Through Brokenness and Back
by Jennifer Silvera
(Kregel Publications, 2009)
God’s Care for the Widow: Encouragement and Wisdom for Those Who Grieve
by Austin Walker
(Day One Christian Ministries Inc, 2010)