How do we relate to a God who hides? Your input desired…

How do we relate to a God who hides?

This is the core question that I want to explore in my next book.  I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time and I have started to sculpt the book’s first chapters.

Here is what I desire from you:  I have come to a point where I need the infusion of new thoughts.  I have been blessed with the most insightful and creative network of friends.  Would you please offer below any half-baked, poorly written thoughts on this important topic?

Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Potential sub-questions:

  • Why does God hide from us?
  • Is God shy?  Aloof?  Disinterested?  Busy?
  • Why does God “show up” so unexpectedly when God does?
  • What causes us to miss God?

I was taught to pretend in my religious upbringing.  However, when most of the people I meet are given even a moment to get beyond their well-rehearsed religious answers, they quietly (and sometimes angrily) admit that 95% of their life (or 99%), it seems as if God is not tangibly present at all.

Why is that?

12 Responses to “How do we relate to a God who hides? Your input desired…”

  1. karen knudtson June 14, 2012 at 18:22 Reply

    I think many times for me I cannot find him because I am not looking. It is easy to get distracted in this this life with work, technology, friends, recreation, worry, anxiety, justice, etc. that many times I do not quiet my soul. It is in that quietness that I always find him. His still small voice is always there. It is when I drown him out that I question whether or not he has hidden from me but in the end, it is I who is too busy, too disinterested, aloof. I have lived a spiritual life long enough to know for myself that it is generally I who is hiding from him not Him hiding from me.

  2. I feel like we miss God more than he attempts to hide from us. My western worldview allows me to spend all day on a computer reading, and writing, and moving numbers around spreadsheets all the while thinking and making myself in control. I am the master of my destiny and so it is true of solving all problems ourselves. I have the finances or resources to get things done without having to pray or ask God.
    I wish I could say i was better at this but when life became too much and when things kept falling apart and I was ready to shut completely down, was the first time I asked God to show up. And I dont know if it was that my eyes were opened or that life just calmed down but I saw God in 5 situations yesterday, all of which allowed the stress to disappear and me to smile again. It feels like I have been missing him for a few weeks, missing opportunities to try to slow down and get others to help me, but instead they all “mysteriously” came to my assistance yesterday.
    Past experience says I will live in this feeling of seeing God in life for about a week before i go back to just doing things my way again- getting busy because i do everything, missing opportunities to delegate, until I am at my wit’s end, actually pray and “see” God again.
    That’s my half brain thought.

  3. Thanks for opening it up to the half-baked thoughts too. 🙂

    My knee-jerk is that it’s because we can’t handle Him. Moses barely saw his backside (whatever that means when we’re talking about unembodied spirit) and glowed for sometime after it. I think about the holiest of holies and the strictures on entering and seriously mortal risks of doing so. Makes me think He’s probably hiding mostly for our benefit. Easier said than accepted for me. I envy (probably foolishly) those who got to see Jesus walking around Judea. I don’t know why He doesn’t descend more often, why His plan only has the two physical advents.

    It’s great that the Spirit is with us, and while i fully agree to the 99.99% problem and also swear by that 0.01% of times when He has shown up and made Himself clear in my life, it does still frustrate me that my five tangible, comfortable, and comforting senses feel more or less useless when it comes to connecting little ol’ embodied-soul me with the unembodied Spirit or even the embodied-but-absent Christ that is one with the Spirit. I know Him enough to trust that He’s got great reasons for all this that i don’t, probably can’t now, and possibly never can understand, but that keep it from sucking more often than not.

    Anyway, if i have to wager a guess, we relate to Him in story, word, Word, and community. He does that for our protection from His glory, and because He wants us to not be just one with Him but one with each other and too strong of an individual connection to Him would probably turn us all into disconnected, mountain-top yogis or something.

  4. I find Mother Teresa’s notion of the Distressing Disguise of Jesus helpful –

    see “Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.” – Mother Teresa.

    I also think of the Beautitudes “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” – I wonder if our fashionable suspicion of anything Good, True, and Beautiful in the world limits out ability to see God in his disguise.

    Other resources in the lives of the Saints may be with St John of The Cross and his epic poem on the Dark Night of the Soul. Many Saints have persisted our of faithful love despite the lack of a consolation of Gods perceived presence.

    This will be a rich topic for study and prayer.

  5. I don’t know if we do relate, to be honest. Or at least, I don’t think I do. My walk with God consists of blind obedience (on unnaturally good days), reluctant obedience (on normal days), and outright defiance (on hard days). I read the Bible, I pray, and every once and a while I revolt. It’s the moments outside of these three where God appears, and always in ways that could be explained away–circumstance, coincidence, desperation, etc.

    The common thread through all of these days and situations though, is my soul and the soul of others. There is life in me that I can’t fathom, and beauty in others that is full of purpose. I can’t deny these things, and when I choose to believe in them (on unnaturally good days) the world opens up for a bit. I guess that’s God relating to me.

  6. I think it goes back to the garden – created in his image to be his representatives in creation. A selfish, petty god would need to do it all himself while ensuring that everyone could see, but the self-giving, relational triune God of scripture invites us to partake in his own life. We relate to the God Who Hides as we accept his invitation to reconciliation. If He did not hide as he does it would be coercion instead of invitation.

  7. The Orthodox writer Anthony Bloom famously said, “The absence of God is the beginning of prayer” (in his book Beginning to Pray). I think there’s truth in that–that our perceived absence of God, the one who sustains us with his love and mercy and goodness even when we don’t realize it, drives us nearer to him. It’s existential, ontological. Even though we may not know how to put it into words, our perception that God is absent leaves us with a soul-deep feeling of dread and despair. And when we feel that absence on this level, I think it signifies for us that God is in fact real–a question many of us wrestle with–because how could someone who does not exist be real? How could a non-existent being have a presence? So the near-despair or despairing heart that cries out, “Where are you?” finally arrives at a true place of prayer, or communion. My own life with God is marked by periods of practical atheism, where God has been replaced by my thoughts about him and by the use of his holy things (liturgy, scripture, etc.) as stand-ins for him and his presence. It’s as if my prayer/communion with him has been supplanted by a likeness of him I’ve created. All the while, he’s standing by, waiting for me to realize the Christ I’m speaking to is just a statue. He’s waiting for me to turn to him in humility, love, repentance. And as someone said above, I believe that he does withhold himself from us at times because we are not prepared to be in his presence in such a pronounced way. Anthony Bloom explains that every encounter with God is a judgment by virtue of his ontology. He is love, and his love is a consuming fire. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with God’s “feelings” toward our sin, but is simply the result of his being that feel this judgment. Light piercing the darkness. If we are not ready for this judgment and to repent, God in his kindness and infinite mercy sometimes stays back, holding off so that the severity of his love will not destroy us.

    Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Certainly half-baked!! Blessings to all.

  8. Just wanted to clarify something. I wrote quickly in my earlier comment, in between tasks at work, and realize now I missed something. What I meant above is that the fact that we perceive an absence tells us that God does indeed have a presence we have experienced. When God “hides himself,” it’s really a revelation, perhaps, of the presence we have taken for granted. Still murky, half-baked, I know. But I hope you can see what I’m reaching for…

  9. Christine Doyle June 16, 2012 at 01:22 Reply

    I don’t think God hides. We hide. I think our lives are too cluttered to perceive Him. It’s our modern reaction of turning away from His glory. Like Adam and Eve. The Israelites couldn’t handle direct contact with God so God spoke through a surrogate – Moses. I think it’s been that way ever since. “He sent us Emmanuel!” Yes, the Father did send Jesus to us and He is now at the Father’s right hand. And we, like the Israelites in Moses’ physical absence, have made for ourselves idols. Tangible things. So God, once again, stoops to make Himself physical. He does this through the Sacraments. Love does not hide. We’re deaf and blind so, to steal a line from Flannery O’Connor, He has to shout and draw large,startling pictures for us to perceive Him….

  10. I wonder, every now and then, if God gets frustrated with us when we ask for a sign. He has to be thinking, “Wasn’t the other stuff good enough?” And He’s not simply referring to the cross, but all the other times that He gave us a sign, an encouragement or a word. One thing about strong faith is that we are able to be reminded of the past and take refuge in the future. God will come through. There’s nothing greater than seeing God come through when you need Him the most. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing God speak so softly and yet so absolutely to your spirit. There’s nothing that compares to being met with the presence of God in a tangible way. But at some point, we have to be able to continue to follow God, hear God and act on His unction without hearing His audible voice.
    As a Dad, I feel my continual job as my son gets older is not so much to parent, but to de-parent. Because at some stage in his life I will have to let him go and trust that I have given him the tools with which to live the right kind of life, without me being there to chart his course. I believe God is doing the same thing. He doesn’t de-parent so that we can be independent of Him, but He de-parents so that we will be dependent of our trust in Him. Sometimes when the stress or worry or disappointment gets so bad that we need Him, He holds us. Sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes when we think that we have to have answers, He’s quiet. Sometimes when the world’s closing in, He lets it. Why? Because God’s greatest goal for our lives is not that we can hear or feel Him, but that we trust Him. In fact, you could call that faith.
    Faith might not be easy to define, but it is simple in this way- you don’t need faith if God is holding you, giving you answers or keeping the world’s borders at bay. That’s not faith. There are always going to be some points in life where you’re really going to get stuck, and that’s a good place to be. Faith in Christ can’t happen if every dot gets connected. Jesus isn’t a gap filler- He’s calling us to regularly take steps of faith. Sometimes we need God’s touch and voice and sometimes we don’t need to hear anything. We instead need faith that stands firm when there is no timely sign. Faith that is able to cling to the past confirmation and have that be enough determination for the future uncertainty. Faith’s foundation is almost always an indefinable, tangible experience with a real God. Faith grows, however, with the absence of one.

  11. Guess I’m a bit late to this party ?….But having just discovered this blog, figured I’d chime in. Thanks by the way for hosting this and fielding the question concerning a God who seems to be elusive, invisible, dare I say, distant from his creation.
    First off, right out of the gates, I’d have to say that this concept of the hidden God has not always been a viable consideration. By this I mean that as a young child the concept that God was hidden; distant did not resonate with me.
    Whether I was taught by parents or relatives, or if it was somehow innate within me, by the time I was 5 or 6 , I knew that an invisible father figure existed. And not only existed but was never far away; rather was only a conversation away. I remember distinctly having a conversation with him when I was delirious with chicken-pox.
    I think it was only as I got older that I began to (feel) be removed from that “knowing”.
    Perhaps young children have not been so “adulterated” (LOL, no pun intended ) by the senses that they are more capable of sensing the “hidden”.
    Personally, I believe that as adults, most of us have become bereft of feeling or sensing the dimension that many of us refer to as the spirit realm. I think that by the time we become teenagers (hormones!) our focus is so much on the world around us that we lose touch with the part of us that does experience the supernatural. God as a spiritual being becomes somewhat of an enigma, if not un-touchable.
    Human beings are at their core, “spirit” beings, belonging to a greater sphere of existence than our finite minds (souls ?) can really wrap their understanding around.
    I think the concept that God is hidden or not present is really more that we tend most often, not to perceive the dimension of the spiritual, but that He really is closer than our very breath.
    Our western culture adds to this, as our paradigms have been oriented towards the natural, physical world around us; discounting that which we cannot see with our own eyes.
    Fortunately, I believe, the creator of the universe has foreseen these tendencies within us and occasionally shows up, big time, with something miraculous that is beyond the capacity of our minds to explain away, allowing us to witness or experience something beyond the physical universe; messing with our heads and hopefully healing our hearts.
    And yes, the miraculous does show up….among the many God moments I have been privileged to experience, one stands out that never ceases to thrill me. I had the opportunity to witness the “man with the withered hand” restored….only it was a woman. She had had here hand severely crushed; mangled, by inadvertently resting it on the coupler of a locomotive car when another car was being coupled to it. After nearly 6 months of crushed bone and gangrene beginning to set in, her doctors decided they needed to amputate the hand in order to save her life. Before subjecting herself to surgery, she sought out who she hoped was the ultimate healer. (J.C.)
    I was there when a friend, spoke words to that woman’s hand and heart; words I believe emanated from the dimension of the spirit. Within seconds, her hand that had become a swollen, blackish-purplish bent, twisted version of a human appendage, began to heal. Her fingers straightened, the swelling reduced, and the normal color began to return….all within a minute’s time. Within 48 hours her once un-salvageable hand was completely functioning; without any evidence of injury.
    This type of “miraculous” healing is truly an other-worldly experience. I just think that the “other world” is not somewhere else, rather it is part of us….a part that we have become unfamiliar with. But it is really who we are as His creation, because we were created in His image. Selah.

  12. It is naïve to ask “Why does God hide?” He’s not hiding. He simply does not exist and that is why believers worry that he is hiding.

    The Loch Ness Monster is not hiding. He does not exist. It’s the same with God.

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