Why Does God Hide?
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Why does God hide himself from us? It is a question that has been asked, not only by agnostics and atheists, but by many a disappointed enquirer and even by many believers, frustrated by God’s apparent inaccessibility when they were seeking answers on a particular issue.
It must be obvious to us all that God, if He is the creator of all that exists, should be capable of demonstrating his presence and reality in a manner that would put the question of his existence beyond all rational doubt. So why doesn’t He?
The answer is complex. Indeed, it can reasonably be said that there is no single answer that is appropriate to every case, any more than there is only one possible reason why you might choose to avoid contact with a particular person at any given time. Nevertheless, I’d like to offer one key thought that can help our understanding of this issue.
The Goal is Love
I believe the root of the matter has to do with the one thing that God treasures most – love. The Bible says that God is love. But why would this make God want to hide himself?
Consider what would happen if you were just walking away from a cash dispenser, and were stopped by a scruffy-looking old man asking you to part with some of that dosh you’ve just stuffed in your wallet. Maybe you would, and maybe you wouldn’t, depending on the level of your compassion for him. But if you then noticed the barrel of a gun pointing directly at your midriff I’ll warrant that, unless you were a self-defence expert or incredibly stubborn, you would be prepared to give him everything in your wallet. But there probably wouldn’t be a shred of love in your actions.
The essence of love is that it is a voluntary giving of what you are and have to another. If you give because you are compelled, or even because you are just conditioned to do so, it isn’t love.
Hiding to set us free
So what has this to do with God hiding himself? The thing about the gun is that it is an almost inescapable threat to your future well-being if you do not comply with the request. But if God really is all-powerful, knowing your every thought and action, then He is inescapable; He is the ultimate ‘Big Brother’ – always watching you, wherever you are. This might indeed result in a Utopian society, in that no-one would dare contravene God’s standards of conduct: but is it the sort of society you would wish to be part of, and where would the love be?
But, unlike the dreaded surveillance society, where the remedy would be to simply turn off the cameras, God will always be there. So what can He do in order that we may have sufficient liberty to make up our own minds about what we want to do, except by making himself inconspicuous?
We find this theme developed in many places throughout the Bible, starting with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-10), where they apparently yielded to the serpent’s wiles in the interval between their encounters with God. And this very first example also brings out the flip side of the issue: that man attempts to evade his own accountability by hiding from God.
Giving us room to hide
In John’s gospel Jesus puts it this way: “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21.)
Of course, hiding from an ever-present, all-knowing God is an act of logical idiocy: so for God to give us a reasonable measure of freedom He has to do this in such a way that it allows us to choose not to acknowledge his existence should we wish to do so.
There for those who care
On the other hand, it is also necessary for God to leave us plenty of clues and to make himself accessible to those who truly want to know him.
As the psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows his handiwork. Day after day they pour forth speech, and night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3.) The Universe is a pretty big clue: not to mention people’s ongoing testimonies of miraculous answers to prayer. And Jesus also assures us, “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8.)
But in closing (for now), let me again emphasise that this is not a complete explanation as to why it seems at times that God just isn’t there, or is completely indifferent to us. A number of these other issues actually come up in the narrative of the Song of Solomon, and I discuss them in the book, ‘Transformed by Love.’ However, if you have further questions, please feel free to comment.