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Why Does God Seem So Hidden?

Think Christianly: Why Does God Seem So Hidden?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Does God Seem So Hidden?

Why isn’t God more obvious? Or as a student once said to me, “If God wants people to know he exists, then why doesn’t he just show up or write his name in the sky or something?” This is just one of the issues related to the hiddenness of God. We all struggle with making sense of why God seems present and active at certain times but painfully distant and uninvolved at others.

Well, to the student’s question, I think there are two things we could say. (1) Because God is good and all-loving and because of the kind of relationship He desires to have with those He created, humans have been given enough evidence to either accept or reject Him. We can suppress this evidence (Rom. 1:18-20) or turn from idols to the true and living God (1 Thess. 1:9). God gives us all the freedom to love Him or reject Him.

If God just “showed up” one day in all his power and glory, people would be compelled to believe. They would have no choice in the matter, but this would destroy the significant freedom necessary for a loving relationship to exist. (2) In addition, God doesn’t want people to merely believe intellectually that He exists (even demons believe in God cf. James 2:19). What God wants is relationship. He wants people to become part of His family.

So what are we to make of all the verses that talk about God hiding from His followers? Isaiah 45:15 says, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (cf. Ps. 10:1; 44:23-24). But why does God hide?

First we know that God’s desire from the beginning was to be present with humanity in a life-giving relationship. But when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and His ways, we see God seeking them out while they are the ones hiding (Gen.3:9-10). We also need to remember that the world is not as it ought to be—sin, pain, and death were not God’s original design for creation. It is within this context that God is working out His plan of redemption and restoration. God has His reasons for seeking and hiding.

Sometimes God hides because people are disobedient or indifferent toward him and this is a form of judgment (cf. Isaiah 59:2; Micah 3:4). Other times God hides for a season so that we will seek Him more earnestly. Unfortunately, this is part of how He teaches us to live dependent and grateful lives.

Then there are those moments of pain and loss where it is a mystery why God seems so far away. With the Psalmist we cry out, where are you God? (cf. Ps. 88:13-14). Jesus experienced the excruciating silence of God while on the cross (Mark 15:34). Ultimately, Jesus is our example for trusting God when the silence is deafening.

We can learn to trust completely without complete understanding. And we can rest in the promise that God has given, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (29:13 cf. James 4:8).

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Blogger KMO said...

Hey, Morrow!
Just some thoughts.

Regarding "(1)...humans have been given enough evidence to either accept or reject Him. We can suppress this evidence... or turn from idols to the true and living God.... God gives us all the freedom to love Him or reject Him."

Do you think that our beliefs are within our control, that when in the presence of good-enough evidence, it is simply up to us whether we believe a thing or not? You seem to suggest that one's believing or retraining from belief in God is our prerogative. Maybe there is something that is within our control that we can act upon and, in turn, find ourselves with or without certain beliefs. All I am saying is that no can believe something just because they want to and no one can refrain from belief just because they want to. Belief is involuntary, so it seems.

I also I don't see how God destroys the freedom necessary to be in an authentic, loving relationship with Him simply by compelling or even causing belief in a person. Does your seeing Mandi keep you from loving her? How is God different, in this regard?

November 29, 2010 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

If what some people want is for God to reveal Himself in a way that He cannot be denied, they need only wait until they have to stand before Him.

Love the post. Keep up the great work!

November 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Morrow said...

Hey Kevin! Hope you are well!

I think we have direct control over what we choose to dwell on and think about but only indirect control over our actual beliefs (through study, reflection, etc.).

technically speaking, i see beliefs--mental content-- as distinct from faith which involves content but is primarily about the will and commitment.

I do see her and love her :) but I also committed (faith) to myself to her 10 years ago. That wasn't a compelled commitment.

November 30, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Morrow said...

Thanks, Daniel!

November 30, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger KMO said...

I'm hanging in there, bro. Trying to keep my head up and trying to continue fighting the good fight.

How are you guys?

I suppose your understanding of faith is more consistent with your defense of hiddeness. However, and please forgive my bluntness, I think your understanding of faith, though quite common, is caustic to the Body of Christ. That through which we are saved, according to your understanding, is a matter of doing. And, this sort of thinking is, at bottom, what has troubled all sorts of denominations and churches throughout history. What sets it apart from the thought of churches like Catholicism or the Church of Christ, e.g., is only in what the faithful must do.

Also, how do you reconcile your understanding of faith with the definition the author of Hebrews gives us.

Please forgive my bluntness. I recognize that I owe very much to you, in regards to where I am today spiritually (the good that is). If I come across harsh, it is because I have been sitting underneath preaching for the past year and a half that is agreement with your understanding of faith and this time has taken a definite toll on my soul.

Also, if I come across arrogant, I am sorry as well. Me and God are working on that.

December 1, 2010 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Morrow said...

No worries Kevin, I appreciate your honesty. Love you man and I am really sorry it has been a difficult year. - JM

December 8, 2010 at 4:42 PM  

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