Why isn't God more obvious?

Why isn’t God more obvious?  This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts.  When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent?  When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen?  When struggling over the immense task of evangelism and the countless millions who do not know about God revealed in Jesus Christ, why wouldn’t God want more people to know God’s good news?  When all the “evidence” seems to counter the Biblical narrative, why doesn’t God just give us a sign?  When God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today?  All of these examples get at the same issue – the seeming “hiddenness” of God.

Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God, to which Russell replied: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.” [1]    While many who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s impudence, a similar struggle ensued between the psalmist and his hidden God.  “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1)  Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being “asleep” in these plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord?  Awake, and do not reject us forever.  Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24)

Indeed, the belief in a God who can be easily found, and who has acted in time and space makes the hiddenness of God all the more poignant and perplexing.  Theologians have offered many explanations for God’s hiddenness; to grow our faith, our sins and disobedience hides us from God, or at least keeps us from seeing God properly, or because God loves us and knows how much and how often we need to “find” God.  All of these explanations point us to the truth. Oftentimes, we are just as likely to hide ourselves from God because of our guilt and shame, just as our first parents’ did in the Garden when God sought after them.

But, once our hearts’ are examined and our lives are “blameless” with regards to any willful hiding from God, we cry out, just like Job did and wonder why God stays hidden away in unanswered prayers and difficult circumstances.  “Why do you hide your face, and consider me the enemy?” (Job 13:24)

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