Why Does God Seem Distant?
If God is close to everywhere, why does he sometimes seem so distant? Does he conceal himself in order to teach us something important, like when my mother hid behind the counter at a department store? My little brother had a tendency to wander, to be distracted by all the glittering things he saw. But he needed to learn to stay close to her. So she hid. And he cried. And he learned that he had to follow her and that she wasn’t going to follow him. Is God waiting for us to learn that too?
Or maybe God hides to increase our hunger for his presence. Jerry Sittser tells a story about playing hide and seek with his children.
“I was better at hiding than my kids were,” he explains. “But I always gave them hints like little squeaks or hoots to help them find me. When they discovered my whereabouts they would squeal with delight because they loved to find me. I never once wanted to hide so well that they would never find me, because the joy of the game came in being found, not in hiding.”1
Or maybe he hides because he does not want to take unfair advantage. Imagine what might happen if he appeared in Rockefeller Center one day. An amazing all-powerful, all-knowing God in plain sight. The sheer magnitude of his presence would compel belief. There would be no room for doubt, no need for faith. We would bow down in homage simply because we feared him. But God wants us to love him.
And speaking of hiding, remember how Adam and Eve hid from God when they heard him calling in the Garden? Ashamed of their sin and fearful of consequences, they attempted the impossible, trying to hide from the God who knows everything. Maybe the one who’s hiding is not God but us.
Today, as you seek God’s presence, open your heart to him. If there is sin, beg forgiveness. If there is dullness, ask for longing. If there is love for God, take that as evidence of his presence. Don’t stop seeking. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop trusting that God finds joy, not in hiding himself, but in being found.
1. Gerald Lawson Sittser, The Will of God as a Way of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 25-26.