The God Who Hides Himself
Adapted from a sermon by H.H. Ko—Heidelberg, Germany
How long, LORD? Will You
hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?
How long, O LORD? Will You
forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face
from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart
daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Ps 13:1–2)
The above words were part of
David’s prayers in times of distress. His prayer may seem familiar to many of
us. In our sorrows, we often cry out to God in the same manner, and yet, we
seem unable to see God. Similar to the psalmist, we may have been wondering why
God is not helping us in our sorrow, or why He is hiding Himself. But is God
really hiding Himself?
INVISIBLE, YET PRESENT
Sometimes, while we are suffering,
we may truly feel God has forsaken us. An inspirational Christian story tells
us that a man once had a dream, in which he saw his whole life flash by. Many
times throughout his life, he saw God’s footprints in the sand, next to his
own. But during the most difficult times in his life, there would always only be
one set of footprints. For this reason, he asked the Lord, “I don’t understand
why, when I needed you most, you would leave me.” The Lord replied, “My precious,
precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of
trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that
I carried you.”
Whenever we are in sorrow and
grief, God is actually carrying us—we just do not know it.
Having said that, why does God
hide Himself while He carries us?
TRUST AND OBEY
The secret things belong to the LORD our God,
but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever,
that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut 29:29)
Although we often cannot see God’s
presence in times of trials, we need to continually put our faith and trust in
Him. God may not have revealed to us why or how long we have to suffer, but He
has revealed to us what we need to know to follow His commandments. It is up to
us to obey what we know, even if we may not always understand.
When God commanded Isaiah to
prophesy that Babylon would destroy the kingdom of Israel and carry God’s
people away into captivity, he was puzzled. He could not understand why God
would do such a thing to His own people. For this reason, Isaiah uttered a sigh
from the bottom of his heart, “Truly You are God, who
hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” (Isa 45:15).
Although he could not understand God’s plan, Isaiah still went ahead to
prophesy what God had commanded. Moreover, he acknowledged that God is the only
Savior of Israel. In this way, he re-emphasized God’s message: "I am the
LORD, and there is no other” (Isa 45:18)—although you may not understand why I am
doing what I’m doing, I am the Almighty, I know what is best and I want you to
trust in Me.
With this message, God not only intends to show His sovereignty and
omnipotence; more importantly, He wants to reassure us of His wisdom and power,
so that we can trust in and obey Him.
MADE BEAUTIFUL IN HIS TIME
In times of trial, we do not only
seek for God’s help but, very often, we also ask God for an answer: “Lord, why
is this happening to me?” Many a time, we may not get answers from God,
although we may have been praying very hard for understanding. During these
moments, we must not be discouraged. Instead, we need to remember that God is
sovereign—He is the King of kings and the Creator who reigns with absolute
wisdom and authority. For this reason, He can choose not to answer us.
For so the LORD said to me, "I will take My
rest, And I will look from My dwelling place Like clear heat in sunshine, Like
a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." (Isa 18:4)
Although it may seem as if God is
not responding here, He is always watching us and working quietly in the
background. During harvest time, good weather is essential. By providing
sunshine and heat, God allows the reapers to bring in the harvest and to
smoothly complete their work.
In fact, Solomon tells us that God
makes all things beautiful in His time and for His reason.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity
in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from
beginning to end. (Eccl 3:11)
So, although we may not be able to
comprehend God’s doings, and may not understand why we are suffering, we must
continue to have faith in God. During the toughest moments in our lives, let us
remember and trust in God’s great wisdom and deep love for us. Let us hold on
to God, for “we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).
A couple at one of our churches in
northern Taiwan lost their two children within a short period of time. Although
they were deeply grieved, they continued to pray to God because they knew that
God is the only one who can control life. So they brought all their pain and
tears to the Lord in prayer, and soon afterwards God comforted them in a
miraculous way. Although the couple had already undergone infertilization,
the wife conceived again and eventually gave birth to twins. Indeed, as long as
we love God and hold on to His principles, God will listen to our heartfelt
prayers—He will make all things beautiful in His time.
ACKNOWLEDGE GOD IN ALL OUR WAYS
Paul too understood very well that
life and death are in God’s hands. He thus acknowledged God in all his ways:
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord
wills … (1 Cor 4:19)
… But I hope to stay a while with you, if the
Lord permits. (1 Cor 16:7)
When Paul said, “if the Lord wills”, he was neither weak-willed nor did he
desire to push away responsibility. Instead, his words show that he knew God
very well. He understood that God’s wisdom is far beyond his human
comprehension and that God’s plan may well be different from his own.
Consequently he did not dare to ignore God when he made his plans.
Today, have we acknowledged God’s
sovereignty in our life? Do we acknowledge Him in all our ways and have we
entrusted our entire life to Him?
… You ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we
shall live and do this or that." (Jas 4:5)
Although God often seems to hide
Himself from us in our times of suffering, afflictions are the only way for us
to eventually find and see God.
And though the Lord gives you the bread of
adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into
a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. (Isa 30:20)
In times of suffering, we may grow
weary in faith and feel discouraged. However, we must continue in unceasing
prayers to God, whatever may befall. Instead of seeking an answer, we need to
seek God’s face.
'And I will not hide My
face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,'
says the Lord GOD. (Ezek 39:29)
When the Holy Spirit fills us, we
will eventually find God. When His peace fills our hearts and we experience His
abidance, we will finally see the Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit,
God will open our spiritual eyes, just as He opened Job’s eyes after countless
Then Job answered the LORD and said: …
"I have heard of You
by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You”. (Job 42:1, 5)
After suffering so much affliction
and pain, Job finally saw God.
He still did not understand why he went through all his sufferings. Yet, he saw
and acknowledged his own insignificance as well the Lord’s sovereignty and
omnipotence. Eventually, “the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his
beginning” (Job 42:12).
Let us therefore acknowledge God’s
sovereignty and great wisdom. Let us commit ourselves into His almighty hand
and trust Him unconditionally, for He surely knows what is best for us.
And you will seek Me
and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer