If God exists why doesn’t he reveal himself to me? Doesn’t he realize that many people would believe in him if he acted? Even Christians face these kinds of questions without having real, tangible answers. We feel their weight. And who can blame them? If God is out there, why doesn’t he just miraculously appear to the Doubting Thomas to rid the world of this age-old problem? Why doesn’t he appear in some way so we can truly experience him? We are all groping in the darkness, waiting for God.
No doubt these questions complicate life, but God doesn’t leave us hanging. He answers. He constantly seeks to answer these questions throughout his Word, in real history, and in our experience. He just happens to do it in a way that catches everyone off guard. Here are three questions for us to think about as we seek God out.
Why Does God Seem So Absent?
To the religious person’s ears these kinds of questions sound strange, but in many ways, it is something that Christianity says, “You are right. That’s a good question.” It is difficult to comprehend, but the reason God seems so absent is because he is more present to us than we can often realize or see. The world is so saturated with his goodness, power, and love that we take him for granted in the very questions we ask. He is so much behind everything we see and do that we look and listen for the wrong things. Like a fish in water, we tend to see beyond God’s presence, but we cannot see the water. Instead, we assign the immortal glory of God all around us to creatures rather than the Creator (Rom 1:17-25).
When Paul was before the people of Athens, the reality of God was something he presupposed. The people there didn’t have to be convinced of God. Instead, the people were so aware of God that they had idols for just about everything, including groping for him in their daily lives and in the questions they asked. Paul even saw them worshipping an “unknown god” (Acts. 17:23).
The problem in their day is ironically not unlike our own. When we ask questions about God when evil strikes, we cannot help but feel our way towards him, as Paul says (Acts 17:27). Humans fundamentally believe in some god. The problem arises in where we look for him.
Today, we don’t look for God in the right places. When we look for him where we want him and not in the place where he has promised, we confuse God’s glory and wondrous creation for God himself. This entails making our happiness and meaning dependent on finite things and groping after meaning and purpose on our terms which is the essence of man-made religion. The result of this is a failure to acknowledge God with our hearts or lips and instead, leads to wanting the gifts of God without the Giver of the gifts, God himself, which is the essence of sin—what clouds our minds and questions
When catastrophes arise or when we fall into despair, we wonder where God can be in it all. God seems absent. God isn’t acting as he should. When he fails to act on schedule, he must not be either good or all-powerful like we were told. This is our perpetual problem that clouds our vision. And so, God must make himself known to us differently – with various methods to open our eyes and ears. God will not live in the temples of our questions or according to our imaginations (Acts 17:24 & 29).
Yes, God may seem absent, but he has broken the silence. He challenges our deafness and blindness by acting in history. God came down 2,000 years ago and became human (Heb. 1:1-2). God came right into the midst of history and called all people to touch his scarred body and see that he was God. Jesus, the Son of God, announced to the world that we can experience life with the Father through him (John 14:8-10). Paul says, “this is the true God I proclaim to you” – the God you were searching for in all the wrong places (Acts 17:23; 29).
At this point, many people will object. How could someone who came 2,000 years ago have any relevance to me now? This is a fair question. And yet, God ceaselessly speaks to us since that time but not in the way of our own making. He does not come to us in a way that is familiar to us or in a way we would think God should. That’s our problem. He does not come to us in a manner we think acceptable, which is why God seems so absent and results in us looking right past him.
He is so present, and he seems all too familiar. He is so plain and ordinary to our eyes that we just take him for granted. The Bible even uses the analogy of the blind leading the blind to describe us. We are on a road we cannot see, blindly seeking a god of our own making – groping for answers in the dark.
Yet, God is found on that dark road. He is like a stranger who meets us, but we can’t recognize him (Acts 17:23). At that moment, when we are left in the dark, is when God speaks. The question, then, shouldn’t be “If God exists, why doesn’t he reveal himself to me?” Rather, we should ask “Where has he promised to meet us?” “Where has he spoken?”
Where Does God Reveal Himself to Us?
The biblical witness to Jesus’ life gives us a clue to this question. After his death, when Jesus had risen from the dead, he began to reveal himself to the world and to his disciples. Meeting two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Jesus shows himself to them in a very odd way (Luke 24). He doesn’t come out and say, “Here I AM, I am risen! Look, everyone, God is here!” No.
Although these men knew Jesus, it was like they were meeting a total stranger. Jesus was peculiar to them. What Jesus does sounds weird to our ears. He goes to the Bible with these disciples, where God had spoken in the past. He shows them the promised Savior (himself!) from the pages of Scripture. He is the one the prophets spoke of, but they still didn’t really understand.
This is what happens when God comes to us. God surrounds us with his goodness and mercy and speaks to us in our pains and sorrows. We are so bent on meeting God on our terms that we can often overlook him when he is standing right before us as we cry out in pain. Yet, with this God, we find a man humbler than we can imagine. He is with us, and he is not silent.
Through a small meal, God stoops down even further to our poverty, revealing to us what we could not otherwise know. When Jesus had dinner with them, they finally saw him as he truly was. He took bread and broke it and gave thanks. Their eyes were opened. Only then did they recognize him in this meal. Only when they trusted in this good God and received from his hand could they see.
This same peculiar method is true for those seeking God today. This simple story is one of the reasons why Christians for centuries get up and preach about Jesus from all of Scripture and then have this strange meal called the Lord’s Supper. Paul said this is a God who must be proclaimed for us to see (Acts 17:23; Rom. 10:17). We must eat with this proclaimed God. God is speaking to us even now and showing Jesus to us as the risen Lord of life. The church hears Christ in the preaching of the gospel. In the breaking of the bread, we recognize the Savior of the world.
God surrounds us so much that we think he is absent. And yet, he doesn’t leave us here. To wake us up and remove our blindness, God became human and died in order that we might see and live. He speaks to us because we are on that road even today. He stands with us, and he says, “peace be with you.” He is with us like he was 2000 years ago as we meet for this meal on Sunday. His Spirit is present.
How Does God Reveal Himself to Us?
As St. Augustine reminds us, “God is more intimate with me than I am with myself” (The Confessions, 3.6.11). What he means by this is simply that, God is so much behind, above, and within all things – supporting it by his hand – that he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He sustains all things by his power. Because of our proclivity to blindness and deafness (our ingratitude), he must awaken our senses and open our hearts to see that he was there all along.
His grace is right before us. He is as close to us as the Word spoken (Rom 10). Through the bread and wine, Jesus approaches us – the Doubting Thomas in our hearts – and calls us to touch and see. It is truly him. God reveals himself to each one of us and awakens us to his grace revealing himself in a real and personal way.
Jesus knows how easy it is to disbelieve, even for Christians. He knows we doubt his goodness and kindness. He knows that even sometimes we doubt his existence and wonder why he seems so absent. We get caught up with those same questions. Yet, he still gives us peace without any condemnation. Jesus searches us out in the darkness.
God gives us himself in Scripture, but he also grabs us by hand in this meal to answers our questions. Hearing and reading his Word, eating and drinking this meal, opens the door of our hearts to hear from God. God comes to us like he did that day on the Road to Emmaus so that we can, in turn, give thanks and see Jesus. That is why it is called the Eucharist – “to give thanks.”
The church is given the Scriptures and this meal to remember all that Jesus has said and done for us as we look for his Second Coming. The Supper reminds us that God will make all things right (1 Cor. 11:20-21). God uses this ordinary food and drink for all of us Doubting Thomases.
If only we would look for God where he is proclaimed and in the place where he has promised, we might find answers to what we are groping for. God still speaks to us today. He is inviting us all to come and partake, even though it is all too easy for us to doubt. We need to come to the Lord where he is, to where he has promised to speak. This is how we experience God. More importantly, this is how he reveals himself to us. We can taste and see that the Lord is good. We can see and live (John 6:55-57). God does exist, and he has revealed himself to us.