What Do You Think When You See A Rainbow?



I saw a rainbow a few days ago and it got me thinking. My first thought? “Cool!” Rainbows are simply cool looking. Beautiful colors, high in the daytime sky, are pretty amazing. Rarely I’ve seen a rainbow colored cloud – no “freestanding rainbow” but rather a cloud with the rainbow in it. Super cool!

cloud rainbow

Super cool!

What do you think of when you see a rainbow? Perhaps you think of the rainbow flag of the LGBT political movement. Or maybe you think of God’s promise never to destroy the earth’s life by flood again (Genesis 9:11-17). I think those would probably be my next two most common thoughts after “cool.” But that day my next thought was a little bit different.

As I began to dwell on the physics of rainbows, refraction of sunlight by water droplets causing separation of the different wavelengths we see as separate colors, I realized every beam of sunlight contains a rainbow. Of course, normally, we can’t see it. The colors are there, but it’s only in special moments, when the circumstances are just right, that we are able to perceive the beautiful colors in ordinary white light. That’s when I started to think about God and his promise to Noah, and it struck me that sunlight and rainbows are illustrative of the relationship between material reality and spiritual reality.

Mostly, we live our lives on material basis; attending to stuff we can touch and see. I’m writing this post on my computer in my home office, surrounded by material things. Yet our world is also spiritual, just as much as material. In truth, everything tangible exists only because of the underlying spiritual world, a world that is invisible to us nearly all of the time. Like a rainbow from sunlight, it’s only at special times (as God allows) that we perceive the spiritual realm. Also, like a rainbow, if we’re not looking for it we might not see it. Let’s be looking.

As Christians, we know this, but it sure is easy to forget in daily life. God calls us to fall in with him and the Holy Spirit.  We are not to operate from the mechanistic deterministic worldview that is so common around us. What we see is not all there is. God is so much bigger. We need to remember that. Always. Scripture instructs us to “lean not” on our own understanding and to “walk by faith and not by sight.” I’m trying, and I’m using rainbows to remind me. You can too.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
          Proverbs 3:5-7 NLT