I remember when I was a kid, my mom would ask me to get something for her in, say, the closet. I’d look in the closet and wouldn’t be able to find the item in question … despite what I considered to be a concerted effort to find it. Inevitably (and I have no idea why it happened innumerable times), she’d get frustrated and come over and the item would be quite literally right in front of my face! And equally certain was her retort … “if it had been any closer, it would have bitten you.” Suffice it to say … to this very day, nothing’s changed. Helen has had the same experience with me umpteen times. Sigh.
Why is it sometimes that the most present, evident, obvious things are the hardest to see?
I guess I have to admit, there were (and are) times when the issue wasn’t so much not being able to see, my problem was being willing to see.
The same is true when it comes to seeing God … when some argue God either doesn’t exist or isn’t perhaps present in the present circumstances, what do we make of that? I suspect there’s an unwilling or unable issue going on.
The apostle Paul touches on the unwilling and unable, and provides an application to ensure we don’t miss the present, evident or obvious. As I read this week from Acts 26 to Romans 2, Acts 1:18-20 tugged on my shirt …
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
When it comes to belief or faith, some would contend that God isn’t present or evident or obvious. Paul contends differently, though, doesn’t he? He says … without equivocation … that God makes it obvious.
What is it that he makes obvious?
There are some … perhaps maybe even you … that say God doesn’t exist. Without tempting a grand debate on the issue here (but feel free to comment and start a dialog if you’re so inclined), Paul says everything God made makes His existence and presence obvious. I don’t recall ever struggling with doubt, but if I had at any point I’m pretty certain the birth of my kids would have cured that. But other elements of God’s creation sift away any doubt that might have ever crept up. Planets, stars, clouds, waterfalls, birds, mountains capped with snow … the immensity of creativity that consists in the world we live in screams it out to me. I am just unmoved in view of the wonders we observe … and the myriad we don’t … on top of the fact that our huge world is not even one-billionth of one-billionth of one-billionth of one-billionth the size of all the vastness out there in the universe He created. It seems to me that for all of that to have occurred without Someone causing it requires a lot more faith than I have given the incredible improbability of it. Heck, for me the list could go on and on. It’s right in front of our faces. You have to be trying hard not to see Him. You have to be unwilling.
What if we’re not talking about God’s existence? What about His presence? You don’t have to look too deeply into our relational circles to encounter friends and family who – by way of their troubling and difficult circumstances – can’t really see how God could be involved. Who can blame them really? Maybe some of us have been there or are there. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear, that God is as present in our troubles as He is in our joy. In these struggling times it seems it can be easy to be unable to see Him.
Whether it’s about His existence, His creation, His provision … it’s right there for us. His creation, his manifestation, and his communication through His Word leave us without a doubt. Paul says His invisible qualities become visible. So what do we do with this?
We know God is there, so on the occasions when we don’t see him is it the result of our inability to see, or the unwillingness to see? It seems obvious that those who have never given themselves (back) to Him would have one or the other to point to for not seeing Him. To that, I would say slow down and look more diligently, and choose to be willing to see whatever you encounter. Look around, within, and among. That is, look around you for the clear signs of creation. If you came upon a cake sitting on your counter, would you conclude that it came about randomly, after a series of freak accidents over months or years of time? Or, would you conclude that someone did something nice and took the time and care to make it? If you looked closer and saw it beautifully designed, with expert craftsmanship … and your name beautifully scripted on it, would you realize then that it was not only made, but made with love for you?
Think about within you. Not just anatomically and biochemically, which are marvels in their own right. But look at the love of people you have the capacity to enjoy. What about the skills and talents you uniquely have? Freakish accidents? Uh … nah. And the people in your life who at just the right times can give you love, nuggets of wisdom, or even just in seemingly random encounters shape you in lifelong ways. He’s making it obvious.
Even as believers we can struggle with each of these under certain circumstances. Do we see His hand in provision and protection even in the difficult times? How do we make the seemingly not-so-obvious more obvious? First, we need to increase our ability – we need to dive and strive … dive into God’s Word and test it and seek for understanding with His help. We also need to increase our willingness – sometimes we assume too much, about His motives, His purpose or His ability. We need to be open and remind ourselves about the all-encompassing “art of the possible” with God.
God isn’t playing some cosmic game of hide-and-seek with us. He longs for our awareness of Him, because that prepares us for greater reliance on Him so that we can be completed by Him. Our job is to release any ways that we are unwilling or unable to see to Him. Let’s commit to praying this week and ask God to reveal to us how we’re being either unwilling or unable, and let’s ask Him to root it out. I’ll be praying for you … please do the same for me.
Soli Deo gloria!