“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.”
George Mattheson’s hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” has been a constant thread in my head these last few weeks of COVID-19 quarantine. He penned this hymn in the matter of minutes on the eve of his sister’s wedding, as he reflected on God’s promises in the midst of heartache, transition, grief, and also celebration. Mattheson, who became fully blind in early adulthood, was living a life unexpected. A life of blindness, a broken engagement to a fiance who in the end could not imagine a life married to a blind man, then followed by his sister, his closest companion, transitioning to married life.
Life is a complex, interwoven myriad of emotions for all of us. We experience highs and lows daily, especially in this time of pandemic and global uncertainty. Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). And so we live in the tension of the “now and not yet” kingdom, where the rainbow and the rain co-exist. We experience struggle and joy, pain and healing, trust and despair, hope and sadness.
This time of quarantine is unexpected for everyone for sure, even for us. Our son, who had to live outside our home for 20 months due to mental health risk, moved home at the end of January. In February, he turned 14, started a new school, new routine, new rules at home, new therapists. In March, like the entire nation, we went on lockdown in our home. For him, quarantine is living his best life. He gets to be at home, which he had longed for these past two years. He gets time with his parents. He does not have to be locked down with other kids who have mental health challenges. He does not have to spend an hour in the car each day getting to and from school. Online classes only take him 15 minutes each. Best. Life. Now. He is experiencing the rainbow through the rain.
Sometimes in our journey we see the rainbow clearly, with all its splendour and magnificent color. But oftentimes we are just tracing it, grasping for it, longing to see through the clouds. The clouds of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, trial, hardship, and despair.
Since the moment our son was removed from our home 2 years ago, I have constantly asked the Lord what He is doing. Not in a shake your fist kind of way, but in a way that is open handed – pleading for God to show me the good. Begging God to show me the rainbow through the rain.
We lived in Oregon for four years. Never have I experienced the oppression of rain and cloudiness until I moved there. I am from Colorado, where rainstorms move in with their booming thunder and flashy lightning, but move out quickly to the plains of Kansas. In Oregon however, those clouds stay for days and weeks on end. We would watch each day for the sun to appear, and when it did we would be outside in between naps, riding scooters, going to the park, playing with friends. And even though it was cloudy for 9 months, we knew the sun was coming in the summer-three months of endless sunshine in fact. Three months of solid blue sky and warmth to make up for the 9 months of damp and cold and rain.
Like those endless, rainy, cloudy days in Oregon, sometimes life can feel like that-a Groundhog day of repeated despair, defeat, and gloom. Quarantine, no doubt, feels like the movie Groundhog Day -where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day, same routine, seeing the same people, the same agenda. Every. Single. Day. for endless days of end. And when there is no end in sight to when we will return to “normal” life, it is easy to catastrophize and snowball our thinking into thinking this is how it will always be. Life will never return to normal. I am stuck with these people, in this house, with this routine for the Rest. Of. My. Life. We want to see the rainbow of hope and deliverance, but the clouds press in and threaten to destroy us. We long to see the rainbow peek through those clouds of despair. We long for God to deliver.
One thing I have learned through my faith journey, is that God is always at work. Even when I am in the rainstorm, he is good and is working good for me. Yet He is not at work as some may want him to be. Maybe he will allow hardship to come. Does that mean he is not at work? Does that mean he is not good? I think we fall into the trap of thinking, “if God is not working for me, then he is not working.” Yet what is his work? Why does he make promises to always be with us and never leave us, if it seems like he has in fact left us?
The God of the universe, who made the heavens and the earth, cares about me. Psalm 139 says that God not only crafted and designed us in our mother’s womb, but he knows our every move. He knows when we sit up, when we lay down. He knows our thoughts. Because He is ALWAYS with us. He ALWAYS cares about us. He knows what every day holds for us in fact. Nothing is a surprise to him. Nothing is unexpected to him. Nothing. Our son being taken from our home. Our unsure future. COVID-19. Unemployment. Stock market crash. Nothing is shocking to God. Nothing catches him unawares. He KNOWS. And He is at work.
God’s work is for mankind to know him, trust him, and worship him. His work is to bring glory to his own name. Not to bring glory to my name, or to the pop star’s name, or to the President’s name. But to bring glory to His Name. And to show the world that he is trustworthy. That he offers comfort, peace and joy that no earthly thing can. That knowing him far exceeds any form of happiness a vacation, or bonus, or award can offer. And it is through knowing him that we see the rainbow through the rain. It is only through him that we find the beauty of the rainbow, hope.
How do I trace the rainbow through the rain during COVID-19? I start with crying out to God and seek him in his Word. I seek him in prayer. Then I reflect on what I am thankful for. I am thankful that my husband and I have steady income, that our son is quarantined with us and not in a residential treatment facility, that we can pay our bills, that I get to have influence over my children’s lives in such a profound way right now, that we are healthy, that I get to visit with my parents in their driveway once a week (socially distanced of course), that I have a community of sisters in the faith I do life with, and the list goes on. As I speak these truths to myself, God is in fact speaking his truth to my heart. His promise of goodness and faithfulness and hope. And even in the rain, I see the rainbow shining through.
How is God at work in your life through quarantine? What is the rainbow he is trying to show you through the rain? How do you trace the rainbow during this time of uncertainty?