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Why We Can't See God

Even though you may be convinced God is real, are there times in your life when God feels distant and hidden? It’s okay to admit it. King David was being very honest when he wrote, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

So why do people who believe God exists sometimes lose sight of God? Here are several possible reasons.

We take general revelation for granted. Our consciousness becomes callused to God’s creation; over a lifetime, the miraculous seems commonplace and we forget to notice that the wonder of the natural world reveals God. 

We’re using only our eyes. Jesus confronted a woman at a well who was struggling to believe. He told her, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The woman was looking only with her eyes, when she should have been seeing Jesus by faith.

We’re not trained to see God. We must be taught the things of God, and we must be shown how to relate to him (see 1 Samuel 3:1-10, Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Timothy 4:15-16). Churches are good at teaching us to sing, read the Bible, and be moral people. But they don’t teach us to actually look for and experience God.

We have short-term memories. There is a reason why God repeatedly told the people of Israel to remember what he had done for them (Psalm 105:5, 143:5, and many more through the prophets). They had a tendency to forget. So do we.

We’re not looking very hard. If we’re honest, we have to admit that we want God to do all the work in this relationship. We want HIM to show up, to pursue us, and to reveal himself. We put the burden on him to make an effort and take some initiative, yet we don’t require the same of ourselves. James wrote it simply and poignantly: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

We’re expecting God to provide something that he’s not intending to deliverWe have set expectations for God that he never promised. We anticipate that God will do what we want (never considering that what we desire may be outside of his best plans for us). When God doesn’t perform on cue like a trained circus monkey, we default to the “God is distant” conclusion.

We don’t actually want to see him. Isn’t it true that we have an unspoken fear that if God would make himself obvious to us, we would then have to make some drastic changes in our lives? We’re not always ready for that. It is easier downplay our attempts to communicate with God.

All too often we can’t see God because we are getting in the way.

Excerpted from Answering the Toughest Questions About Goe and the Bible by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz (Bethany House Publishers, 2016). 

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Christianity 101 is a collection of books and digital resources by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz that talk about God in a way that encourages people to grow in their faith.