Can rainbows really be signs from God? (poll included at the end)


Today we had intermittent rain shows and sun… which means, a great opportunity for rainbows! I ran out with my camera and got some photos, including these:

Rainbow over the Hudson

This one is a panorama, stitched together from three photos:

Rainbow with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge over the Hudson

Seeing this rainbow today was significant for me. To explain why, I am republishing a post from last summer, with an addition at the end, and a poll.

[My old post starts here:]
As with all natural events, there are two (not incompatible) ways of looking at rainbows. One is the scientific approach: rainbows are an optical phenomenon due to the refraction and reflection of light rays in airborne water droplets. The other is the “faith” approach: within God’s all-encompassing providential plan (which includes events governed by natural laws, of which He is ultimately the author), is there some particular reason why I am seeing this rainbow now? This question may sound silly to some people, but if we believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient then it is not unreasonable. [Plus, God uses the rainbow as a sign for Noah in the Old Testament...] We should not look for signs everywhere – it can be exaggerated and silly – but we should not exclude them either.

I have seen – and photographed – more rainbows in the past 6 months than I have seen for years at a time. It seems that rainbows have marked each step on my journey from the community of the Legion of Christ in Thornwood, NY, to my current ministry in (relatively) upstate NY.

In March, I went from Thornwood to Ireland on sabbatical to work on my doctoral thesis and discern God’s will for me in the current circumstances of the Legion. In a moment of discouragement, I looked out my window and saw this partial rainbow (on the right-hand side of the photo):

The promise of the rainbow

In May, I moved on to Switzerland to continue my sabbatical, and on one of my first days there, I saw this rainbow behind our house (note the faint second rainbow further out):

Glory

The house at the end of the rainbow

After much prayer and reflection I felt that God was calling me to continue my priestly ministry outside the Legion of Christ, at least for the moment, so I went home to northeastern Connecticut. There, I saw this double rainbow above my house:

Double rainbow over Greenhaven

In June, I settled on coming to start process of incardination in the archdiocese of New York. After the necessary meetings I was assigned to St Patrick’s in Newburgh, NY, where I arrived three weeks ago. This past Sunday afternoon I was driving to visit a sick friend in upstate New York, and I ended up seeing this incredible double rainbow “following” me along the highway:

Rainbow on the road

Rainbow on the road

I’m not a fanatic when it comes to these things, but if rainbows can be signs, I might be at an intersection.

All photos © Matthew Green

[End old post]

So, today’s rainbow was meaningful to me. I haven’t seen another rainbow like this since my last (above-quoted) post on the topic last August. But now, I’ve been praying to God asking for guidance for an important decision. I’ve also been asking myself and God, “what would or should I consider a sign to know if this decision is God’s will for me?” Seeing this rainbow today could just be a coincidence, of course. However, considering the fact that I posted less than a year ago about rainbows as possible signs from God in the context of decisions like the one I’m making now… seeing one again, right now, when I’ve been praying for a sign, seems like it could be significant. It’s not like I’ve been looking for a rainbow in this case; honestly, I was not even remotely thinking about a rainbow as a candidate for a sign. I was thinking about something more rational and pragmatic. So this just seems, well, fishy.

What do you think? In your opinion, does God use natural phenomena like rainbows as signs in the world today? or is this just an example of reading meaning and order in unrelated events, according to a previously existing psychological bias? Vote, and comment!

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About Matthew Green

I am an origami artist and photographer (and teacher of both), a blogger, a freelance translator, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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23 Responses to Can rainbows really be signs from God? (poll included at the end)

  1. I think it’s a bit more nuanced, even though I voted for #3– If you’re the sort of person who needs a rainbow as a sign, God will send you a rainbow. If you need red roses, he’ll send you the roses. The signs in my own life have inevitably been quirkier, especially when I really need direction, but that’s because I’m quirky. God communicates to each of us in the signs that we most need and understand. For you, rainbows, for others, other things.

    ALSO, it could just be that, at this point in your spiritual journey, you’re more able to SEE the signs of God’s presence than you were earlier, because you’re on a path closer to the one he’s calling you to… Sometimes, when we get too far off the road we can lose site of what God’s trying to tell us because we’re not looking in the right direction.

  2. Olivia says:

    Great post Fr. Matt, and the captures are stunning!! Yep, I voted for, “Totally, You’d be a fool to ignore signs like these.” I do believe that God communicates through natural phenomena, even though I’m aware of the science behind it. I just like to attribute it with God. The word of God is flawless, in Haggai 2:6 God says, “I will shake all nations” and a closer analysis will tell you that all major earthquakes have occurred on 26. Now science can prove it’s a coincidence but that won’t convince me.
    As in your case, there definitely is a pattern, and He is communicating with you through signs and wonders :) A double rainbow…[wow] that would mean like a ‘sure’ ‘sure’ or a ‘nope’ ‘nope’ depends on how you interpret it :)
    I know sometimes we demand for a second sign, just to be absolutely sure it is God talking to us. It’s happened with me, “falling stars” [as some would call it, but actually they are ‘Meteors’] are my kinda thing. It’s rare to see two shooting stars in a span of five minutes, unless there is a ‘meteor shower’ but it has happened with me, so I know what I’m talking about :)

    God Bless

  3. Jeanne Barrett says:

    I wasn’t sure how to vote because, I agree with you, Father, we have to be cautious about looking for signs everywhere. However, the beauty of the natural world is one of the most powerful ways Our Lord speaks to us, if just to offer us the encouragement that “Yes, I’m here!”

    I had a similar experience in Co. Sligo, Ireland, a few years ago. Even though it was threatening to rain, I walked three miles just to see the ocean. When it did in fact begin to rain heavily, I decided that I had been stupid to get myself into this situation. But then the sun came out and I witnessed the full arc of a most spectacular rainbow. Yes, I do believe God was offering me encouragement in that.

    And I believe Our Lord is offering you encouragement in your time of discernment. I will pray for you, Father, as you discern what Our Lord is asking of you.

  4. CMSmith says:

    Awesome. Awesome photos. And awesome that rainbows seem to follow you around.

    I think the sign is not in the rainbow, but in the way you feel when you see the rainbow.

  5. Enedina says:

    I too have been seeing rainbows. It started about 6 months ago and I’ve seen about 6 since then..It’s becoming more often. I won’t see a full rainbow like you do…just a piece. I do believe it’s a sign from God. I seen one today but couldn’t snap a pic because I was driving. I turned the corner and went back to take a pic and it was gone. I seem to see them when I’m thinking about a problem..it’s like HE’S reassuring me that everything will be ok. :)

  6. marieagrace says:

    Hi this is my first time here ans I love your photos:) The Photo over your house is the best one because it shows and entrance to another dimension of time a roadway for you to take if you look close.An opening in the sky just for you to enter in and start your new life. I would love to enter into that space and see what is there it is a replica of your heart and only you know what lies beyond that rainbow:) Blessings and Peace! Rev:4:3 10:1 Psalms:;96

  7. Kim says:

    Thank you for your post. I completely agree with you. If rainbows are not a sign from God, but a by product of all the elements coming together perfectly, why aren’t there many rainbows all over the sky at once? I love the way the rainbows have followed me too. Most times rainbows give me the assurance from God that everything is going to work out, or what I am thinking or doing is correct and I am on the right path. It’s so nice to know that there are other people out there that also believe God loves us enough to give us rainbows.

  8. Jinah says:

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and story about your rainbows. I too have been seeing many rainbows in the last month — randomly, mostly in my home. It started one morning after a quiet time with God, when I prayed that I so desperately needed to know that He loved me that day. After my tearfilled prayer, I opened my eyes to find a bright rainbow sitting next to me. Since that day, I find rainbows randomly scattered around my house. Sometimes reflected off the floor while I am cleaning, sometimes reflected off my couch during quiet time, sometimes — even now — as I write, 3 pillars of rainbows are being reflected off my TV screen. When I see these rainbows, it brings a smile to my face as I reflect on God’s love for me.

    My husband and I have also had rainbow experiences in the past. We would see them in the sky together –after a long and difficult trial seemed to be coming to an end. One of the instances was when my husband and I were both without work for 2 years. At that time, we had 2 small children. We went through all our savings and experienced many miracles of God’s provision during that time. There were many times when we would have $20 in our bank account and then somehow, we would get money from random places…a forgotten tax refund from the government, rebate checks, a check from overpayment of our housing tax…the list goes on and on. One day, we decided to go to a local diner for dinner, something we had not done in a long time — and outside the diner window, we saw a rainbow that went from one expanse of the sky to the other. As we gazed at the rainbow, we knew that our difficult time was coming to an end, and soon after, my husband found work. Thank you God for your rainbows.

  9. Kal says:

    Beautiful pictures. And I agree that it means God is telling us that whatever we are thinking will end up good or whatever we are doing is good thing. And everything will be fine.
    So, keep doing whatever we are doing. We are in the right path. We will find what ever we are looking for. That’s what the God is telling, I think.

  10. Kal says:

    I also read somewhere on the net but I forgot to bookmark it, silly me.
    It said, the rainbow will follow the person if his/her soulmate is searching/trying to make connection.
    If anyone can find that page, please post the link on this website.

  11. Adam says:

    I randomly clicked on your page here, I too was wondering about rainbows more of thier significance, symbolism ect…I can read into your comments, true faith is what you need, true hope is also very helpful, and then love which is above all these. Love God, believe his signs, look forward to manny, many blessings added to them. A rainbow is beautiful, one imagines he has stepped into a dream, but Gods redemption on the Cross is completed, He truly died, and rose…and there was a Noah who had an ark, and the rainbow was given as a covenant with man through all ages….this is Our Lord showing His love, His faithfulness, true love believes all things. Thank you for your beautiful photos and asking us all our opinions. I had a rainbow end on top of me, it went through my head , through my shoulders, and hit the ground at my feet. Five others looked on pointed it out to me, because I could not see it, they were a little freaked by it…about a day later I woke from a nap went out my front steps and a rainbow ended again, this time thirty feet in front of me…to finish then, I cant possitively pin point these incidents as the begining of what seems now to be a three month long epiphany, that has yet to end….I have become strangely courageous and uncomonnly calm after thirty four years of pain, misery, and tthat healthy fun stuff…well, this is enough, again thanks for the outlet my heart needed to type out and communicate to otheres, who are all brothers and sisters in Jesus’s sacrifice and hopefully worthy partakers of His beautiful reward. O my Jesus have mercy on me a sinner. Amen

    • Adam says:

      Father,

      I am sorry, I read viewed and posted comment without taking in all the available information. I didnt realize you were a priest asking for our opinions, it threw me off a bit. I apologize if I didnt seem respectful, I truly am impulsive, the worst of sinners, although I look to be more pleasing with the Lords grace and made worthy of His promises. Thank you so much for you ministry, and the call you answered to serve, you can not be but truly loved. Thanks again and sorry fo my space cadet like confusion.

  12. Stef Babcock says:

    A decade ago, I lost my brother suddenly at 30 (we were less than a year apart in age). I felt like I would die and many times I wanted to. I went to Alaska to grieve that first year and took a seaplane where I saw a huge rainbow and KNEW and FELT either the Lord or my brother or some Comforter was with me. That began a journey of seeing dozens and dozens of rainbows and things that just cant be a coincidence. In the midst of enormous pain and suffering, I felt comfort from the Holy Spirit in these situations that I started a journal that first year. Just like your story, if it didn’t happen to YOU and wasn’t so obvious, you would doubt it. If I hadn’t had so many friends and family along the journey, I probably still might at times. Last month, I was at a funeral of a friend who died after a long bout of cancer. The church was packed but when we all came out, hundreds of us – people were pointing at the double rainbow over the church. Even then, after this occurring so many times that I have witnessed, it was still wondrous to behold and, again as you indicated, it is GODS timing. Rainbows come, appear vibrantly but only momentarily just like a flower. The rainbow was a Promise between God an man. The beauty of your story and mine (and
    a few of my friends now and I am sure hundreds of others on this planet) is that it is a Personal Promise between God and Us Personally.

    Grief comes and goes like a season or, I have found, in waves. I had a couple of things that triggered my sadness tonight over my brother, Jamie and I decided to just type rainbow and signs from God. I haven’t done that in years! Your site was the first that came up so I opened it. Before I read it, I knew yet again, it was God’s timing because Jamie was born on 4/27 – your site is 4/27 (yes, different years but still……….). Some would say a coincidence……again. Not for me! I just read your journey and saw your pictures and it gave me chills but made me actually laugh! We have an Extraordinary All-Powerful All-knowing Creator who delights in showing us at times He is there; when we are willing to look. Thank you and Keep Seeing Those Rainbows as signs! I can guarantee they will keep coming JUST when you most need them!

    Tennyson wrote, ….from out of my grieving heart arose, like a rainbow after the storm, to know, though no human tongue can prove, that every cloud that revealeth and unveileth itself is Love.”

  13. john nelson says:

    How is this for signs…I have had 7 rainbows that looked like gates to my property in the last 40 days or so. Two, of which were double rainbows! 2013 is the year of the black snake. I was in my garden the other day and I ran up on a 4′ black snake. The very same day, my daughter which lives 40 miles away, ran up on a black snake, in her house! I told my daughter, over the phone to be prepared, she would probably see a rainbow soon, she said, “Dad, I’m looking at one right now! Then, the very next day, my wife ran up on black snake in the pasture beside our house! It was 4′ too! btw, my 3 pitbulls killed the first black snake the very day I saw it…My wife has also seen a double rainbow in the same time period. All of this has happened in the last few weeks! If anyone wants to interpret this…please do! I feel like God is letting me know that my family has reached immortal status…If you guy’s knew us, maybe you would think so too. We all are very Godly people, although we are NOT religious. We certainly have huge love for Jesus as well!

  14. Pat says:

    It is so interesting to find this page. In 2009 after a very difficult time, and a conversation about the future with a friend, we walked out a building to the most beautiful rainbow. We looked at each other, and I asked, “Do you think God sends rainbows?”
    Fast forward to 2013 and 4 years of a life transition that impacted a lot of loved ones. The very day of a resolution, I ran into the friend I had confided in 4 years ago. We were both in the market selecting fruit. I paid for my goods, left the building, and there was another rainbow. Not just any rainbow, but one that pulled my attention and captivated me with awe. Again, I asked the question skyward, “Does God really send rainbows?” Surely he is too busy to be interested in my concerns……. but this rainbow…..I hope it’s not a coincidence.

    I think of it often and wonder aloud, “Does God send rainbows?”
    Seeing your story inclines me to believe He does.

  15. Thank you for your post Father Matthew. I am Rev. Bryan in Henderson Nevada with a new ministry. I have studied religion for the past 30 years and as I was moving forward I prayed for a ministry name. One morning I woke up and I knew exactly what to call it, but, the blessings didn’t stop there. When I was creating our website and placed the initials on the bottom of the page I could not believe what the initials spelled out. Our ministry is: The United Fellowship Of Faith. The initials are: T.U.F.F. I have continued praying and building the ministry and the other day I saw a beautiful rainbow. I ran to take some photos and right before my eyes, for a brief few minutes, I saw a double rainbow and took photos of them. I am 52 years old and I have seen a few rainbows. But, I have never seen such a strong vivid rainbow, much less a double one. I do take this as a blessing and sign from God telling me to continue on the path I am on. We just all need to stop from our daily busy lives and notice what God has placed right in front of our face to enjoy. Remember, the simplest blessings are not big productions. God bless to all of you as well to you Father Matthew!

  16. Amy Behling says:

    I was traveling in Colorado with my fiance in our red Chevy S10 over twenty years ago. I had been praying to God about a question. I looked over my shoulder and saw the rainbow. It was shooting out of our black bed liner into the sky. It probably didn’t start there in the truck, but it was definitely ending its journey there. We were literally at the end of the rainbow. It was there for at least ten seconds, but it felt like at least a minute. Then it was between us and the car behind us for several more seconds. My fiance saw it too. I actually grew tired of cranking my neck around for so long looking at it. I really don’t know the whole time frame, but it was amazing. Many years later, I asked the contact on the Mythbusters website if that could ever be duplicated in any form. They just wrote me back with an answer such as if you were 55 degrees from the sun etc. If just want other people, especially young people other than my nieces and nephews to know about this.

    • Carli says:

      My 4 year old son just passed away 3 weeks ago due to unknown causes. My faith has been shaken ever since. Today, I knelt down and prayed and prayed. I begged for a sign that my son was okay. I begged for a sign from God. I was getting angry that I had so much faith, and yet nothing was being revealed to me! I stopped my rage and got in the car and saw the most beautiful, most amazing rainbow! It was so huge and so beautiful that I could not mistake it as the sign I was looking for!

  17. Alex says:

    Just yesterday I saw the most amazing rainbow outside my house so I grabbed my cell phone and took several pictures. I even texted it to a friend. I was the only one who saw it since none of my neighbors were outside. I take that as a sign it was meant specifically for me. Anyway, today I was still thinking about it so I just did a google search on rainbows and symbolism and was brought to this site. The significance here is that I grew up in Newburgh, NY. What are the odds of that happening?

  18. melly666 says:

    Yes I believe so. These signs are not to be ignored. I am not a religious person but am spiritually inclined. I had an experience today with a rainbow. My life is in a bit of turmoil at the moment so I asked the cosmos this morning if it hears me and if so to just show me a rainbow. I forgot about this all day until in the evening looked outside and there was a lovely big rainbow at the place/direction I asked. It really makes me wonder!

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