There are a variety of phrases within Christianity that we often use to imply that God is “so hard to find.” We say that we are “seeking direction” or that we are “waiting upon the Lord” or that we have “sought the Lord” about a particular matter but we are not clear about a specific path to take. We will say, “God has not spoken to me yet.” The Psalms are full of passages that speak of seeking for God when they say, for example, “How Long, O Lord?” (Psalm 6:3; 13:1; 35:17, etc.) meaning that they are waiting for God to deliver, when He has not yet delivered. Jesus said that if we seek then we shall find (Matthew 7:7-8), yet some (many?) of us often “seek” and never seem to “find.” Also, Christians obsess over “hearing the voice of God.” Sometimes Christians will pray, fast and spend extended periods of time in silence and solitude, exerting much effort, just to “hear” one word from God. Looking at our Christian heritage, our practices, our beliefs, as well as various lines throughout Scripture, one may ask this question: “If God truly exists, then why, for many of us, is He so hard to find?”
Why does there seem to be this “hide and seek” game with God? Why must we “seek” God if He’s already there? Why, for some, does it take an all-night prayer meeting, and a few days of fasting, to “find God,” or for Him to finally “show up”? Here are a few possible solutions to this “finding God/hearing from God” dilemma:
WE DON’T HAVE THE LUXURY OF SETTING UP THE WAY GOD RELATES TO HIS CREATION
When we begin to think that God should relate to us in a way that is understandable or logical to us, we are then imposing upon God Almighty the way that we think He should act in the world. Paul reflects on this type of matter after expounding upon the great plan of God regarding salvation in Romans 11:33-35:
“33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ 35 ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’
Do we know the mind of the Lord? Are we his counselor? There is, it seems to me, a subtle pride in demanding that God do “This” or do “That.” While there may be some room for concern about the way God relates to us, it is also quite possible, given the sinful proclivities of the human heart, to put ourselves in the place of God and presume that what we would do is also what God should do. God, in short, can relate to His creation in whatever way He pleases, and who are we, in our great wisdom and vast stores of knowledge, to say otherwise?
WE DON’T KNOW ENOUGH TO LEGITIMATELY COMPLAIN TO GOD ABOUT HIS APPARENT ABSENCE
Whenever God is absent, many of us will assume that He is simply not there. Does it ever cross our minds that God may have some good reason for being overtly (but may not actually) absence in a particular situation? God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9), and to equate our thoughts with His thoughts is simply to confuse ourselves with God. We can fall into a trap of assuming that God should think like we do, and this is a massive error in reasoning. Our knowledge is limited in both quantity and quality; therefore, we should not assume to know more than we do about God. Given our limited knowledge in both quantity and quality, could it not be the case that within that large expanse of knowledge that we do not have that there are a trillion good reasons as to why God is currently (and seemingly) absent in our particular circumstance?
SIN ON OUR PART MAY BE A FACTOR IN GOD’S ABSENCE
James 4:2-3 says:
” 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. “
When God does not answer us could it be that God has done so because we have asked “wrongly” that we may “spend it on [our] passions”? Of course, this may not be the case for everyone, but it definitely could be the case for many of us who are simply perturbed with God that He would be so audacious to not immediately reply to our requests. One may object that “God should hear anyway even if we do sin!” but again this is imposing upon God the way we think He should relate to His creation.
WE ARE TOO SHORT-SIGHTED TO RECOGNIZE GOD WHEN HE IS PRESENT
When we think of God “showing up,” we may think of His action and presence as a massive “Boom” that no one can miss, but this may not necessarily be the case. This was indeed the situation with Elijah and the Lord in 1 Kings 19:11-12
” 11 And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”
After this “low whisper,” the Lord spoke to Elijah in the very next verse. Sometimes God shows up in ways that we do not expect because we are too short-sighted to see Him. For Elijah, while God’s mighty power was manifested by the strong wind that tore the mountains, the Lord was not in the wind, nor was He in the earthquake or the fire, but He was in “the sound of a low whisper.” When God does not show up in the way that we expected we should not be angry at God, rather we should marvel at how diverse God is in the ways in which He may reveal Himself.
While one can still hear the unbelieving skeptic, or even the discouraged Christian say, “God is not acting, therefore, God does not exist!” one must deal, first, with the ways that God Himself has said that He will act in the world and the stipulations thereof.