It’s a vow we learn as a young child when secrets are whispered amidst school yards. I’ll tell you, but do you promise not to tell anyone else? I promise.
It’s a vow that travels with us as we grow older and learn, often as teenagers, what heartbreak really means for the first time. But they promised not to get divorced. But he promised he loved me. But they promised to be here.
It’s a vow that continues to grow in its’ solemnness as we grow into adults. I promise to love and cherish you through sickness and health. I promise to bring my child continually into worship to grow in the Lord’s Word. I promise to do the best I can at whatever God has lead me to do. I promise to be the best I can for whoever God has given me.
Few things hurt as much as a broken promise.
I bet you can think of a few broken promises in your own life. Was it when they left you, or you left them? Was it when they couldn’t protect you, or when they were who you needed protecting from? Was it when you were hurting and nobody came, or when everybody came and it still hurt just the same?
How does it feel to think about it? Is it a distant wound which is only remembered when you catch a glimpse of the scar it left? Or is it a gaping cut which you have yet to successfully close up?
There are people in Scripture who felt this level of pain. The kind of pain that exhausts you. The kind of hurt that seems never ending, or at least it won’t be ending for a while.
Almost all of us learned the story of Noah’s Ark as young children in Sunday School and often it seems our own understanding of that story stays at that level. Cute pictures of animals skipping onto a boat two-by-two mesmerize us as children, and as adults we ignore the hard truth of what that story, what that historical event, really was.
The world had become so evil that existing in it was painful. It was dangerous, torturous, and the exact converse of what God’s plan for creation had been. So, He destroyed it. All of it, save some animals and one faithful family. We can assume Noah spent his last moments before the flood begging people to repent. To save themselves. These were Noah’s neighbors, his friends, his countrymen, and his fellow humanity. This was destruction on a level the world had never seen and will not see again until Jesus comes. This was pain unlike any that Noah had experienced in his 600 years.
On the Ark there must have been grieving. Not the rainy-day blues we attribute Noah’s sadness to in Sunday School, but true grieving. Everything they had known about creation had been wiped out. Any semblance of a future representing any part of their past had been washed away. They were alone in the truest sense.
And when the rain ended, this pain would not end with it. The task of reestablishing humanity was at hand, but this intense grieving had yet to be addressed.
And then God did something miraculous, yet simple. He presented healing, not only for Noah and his family, but for anyone who’s ever felt the pain of a broken promise. For anyone who has felt alone and scared. For anyone who would ever wonder where God’s hand could be in such a dark moment.
God stopped the rain and placed a rainbow in the sky.
And with this rainbow God said to Noah, “This is a sign of my promise to you and to anyone who will ever live on this Earth” (Gen. 9:17). The rainbow is a sign that the rain isn’t staying forever. That God is present in the biggest of storms. That a plan is at work. But most importantly, the rainbow is a sign that the end of your story has already been written.
I don’t know what your life looks like right now. I don’t know if you’ve seen the rainbow in your troubles or if you’re still in the middle of your storm. I don’t know if you can see an end to your pain or if you’re not sure that an end is even possible. But I do know this: When Jesus came and died for you on the cross His blood and tears became a rainbow in your life. A sign of God’s promise. A sign that the storm has come to an end. Church, you have won. This pain is temporary. The skies will clear up and we will join in Eternity to witness the greatest rainbow ever created.
Friends, promises are broken by humans, not by God. If your faith is dependent on the way the people around you act than you have a lot more faith in humanity than you do in Christ: the creator of rainbows, the Promise Incarnate, the end of the storm. We all get hurt, and it’s okay to cry when you do. But now’s the time to pick yourself up, fix your eyes on Jesus, and start looking for that rainbow. It’s coming, friends.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior” – Isaiah 43:2