Why Does God Seem So Hidden?
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).