Why can’t I see God?
Ever feel like you are playing hide and seek with the creator?
From time to time, everyone struggles with feeling like God is nowhere to be found. Sometimes our prayers just don’t seem to get “past the ceiling.” We ask ourselves why God doesn’t just show up in a way that we can see, touch, and hear Him like we do other people. We can see Him working in our lives and can talk with Him through His word and in prayer, but sometimes it’s hard to understand why God still seems so hidden from us. After all, many people don’t even think God exists! Why doesn’t He just show up and prove them wrong by having a face-to-face with them like in the movie “Bruce Almighty?”
You're not alone
It’s comforting to know that you aren’t alone if you struggle with this. Any pastor can tell you about counseling people going through a crisis who have had to face this problem head on. Sure, some folks never seem to allow this problem to faze them. Generally, however, most people would likely say that they wish they could experience God’s presence in more obvious ways. In fact, we see this same sort of plea throughout Scripture in passages such as:
- In Job 13:24, Job pleads before God in light of the crisis he was in and suggests that God had distanced Himself from Job.
- In Isaiah 45:15, Isaiah observes that God does hide Himself from His people at times because of their sin.
- The writer of Psalm 10:1 asks why God doesn’t make Himself known when evil men take advantage of God’s people.
3 reasons for God’s hiddenness
The Bible doesn’t tell us all the reasons that God acts the way He does. It does assure us, though, that God’s actions are based on His perfect nature. So, we can begin to think of reasons, which are consistent with His nature, that He might be hidden to a certain extent. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hidden for our protection. Perhaps God hides because of how His presence would affect us. We know that if a man sees God fully, he will surely die (Exodus 33:18-20) and we also see examples, like that of Isaiah, of those who stand in the presence of the Lord and are utterly “ruined” by His holy and glorious presence (Isaiah 6:1-6). Isaiah’s sin caused him to be overtaken by his guilt in this vision where he stood before the Lord. If God was to become fully present in the world, He would also judge the world by immediately ending the lives of sinners who are apart from Christ. His holiness will not allow Him to be in the presence of sin. Therefore, God’s hiding Himself to an extent is an act of mercy as He postpones judgment to allow many people time to respond to the Gospel.
- Hidden for the sake of relationship. God may hide because He wants a particular kind of relationship with us. What would be the effects of experiencing the fullness of God’s presence in our daily lives? Would we still have free will? Consider this—if you had a personal policeman follow you around every waking minute of your day, would you ever commit a crime? You probably wouldn’t even if you wanted to. At the least, you would act very differently than if he wasn’t following you. Well, maybe God hides because He wants us to obey Him out of our love for Him, not because we are pressured into it just because He’s standing over our shoulder ensuring everything we do is perfect. His hiding could be His way of giving us more freedom to choose to obey.
- Hidden so we might seek Him. Moreover, let’s remember that God is a personal being who loves us. Rather than being constantly overwhelmed by His presence, maybe God wants to give us the opportunity to really long for and seek after Him. Someone once told me that God doesn’t always put His cookies on the lower shelf. What they meant by that was that God sometimes puts the sweetest things in life, like being in His presence, at a higher reach to make sure that those who find Him really want Him. Of course, Scripture teaches us that no one seeks after God if left to themselves (Romans 3:11) but because God sought us, He give us the ability to affectionately seek after Him.
Are we looking in the right places?
The “signs” of God’s presence in the world may look differently than we expect. Some people say “I just wish God would give me a sign that He’s here with me”. Well, it could be that He does but it’s not what we want it to be. Sure, in some places and at some times God has made His presence known in over-the-top ways, like raising people from the dead. At other times, though, He makes Himself known by transforming people’s lives and raising them from spiritual death. In both instances, God is making Himself known in powerful ways. The Gospel has the power to absolutely change people and this power should be understood as the presence of God as He works among us!
Are we blinded by sin?
Our sin can keep us from being aware of the presence of God. Paul seems to say in Romans 1:18-21 that everyone knows deep down that there is a God and we know certain truths about Him. However, it is the sinfulness of people that results in our “suppressing” this knowledge. This is not to say that some people don’t really have doubts or questions about God’s presence or existence, but rather that sin has an effect on people that can lead to us ignoring or pushing aside the truth. Sin always muddies the water between what is true and what is a lie.
What about Jesus?
When we see Jesus, we have seen God (Colossians 1:15). Studying Jesus’ life provides us all the details about who God is and how He loves us. In Jesus, God came to walk among us and taught how we might be cleaned of our sin so that we can experience His full presence in heaven. Through Jesus’ ministry, we see the Holy Spirit come and live inside the Christian, making the Christian sensitive to God’s presence and making him more like Jesus. While we only experience the presence of God in somewhat limited ways now, it is because of our identity in Christ that we have access to God at all!
Finally, we look forward to a time when we will no longer feel like God is hiding. In Revelation 22:1-5, we see a future place of residence that has been healed of sin’s effects. In the new creation, there will be nothing keeping us from seeing the face of God and there will be no more darkness because of the light of His face.