Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? . . .
You have taken my companions and loved ones from me;
the darkness is my closest friend.
—PSALM 88:14, 18
Is God hiding from you . . . or are you hiding from God? The common complaint is that God has left us to fight our own fight. It is as if we are claiming to be like lost children who frantically search everywhere but cannot find our parents anywhere. And sometimes this is how we feel about God, too.
But how hard are we really looking? Are we just repeating in our own time a pattern that has existed from the very beginning? In the Eden story, Adam and Eve transgress and immediately feel shame and, as a result, go into hiding. God calls out to them, but they hide from Him at the very time when God is searching them out. In the time of the prophets, Isaiah identifies the intractable persistence of this problem of who is seeking and who is hiding: “We all, like lost sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
What causes us to hide from God? Is it us, or is it Him? And what might cause us to hide in the first place? In the Genesis story, the man and woman flee from the presence of a searching God because of shame and fear. If they had nothing to hide, they would not have taken cover. But they did have something very real to hide, which was their act of utter unfaithfulness. After the man and the woman are cast out of Eden, they seem to pass on to their own child Cain the same inclinations of faithlessness and rebellion. Cain murders his brother, and when he is found out, he cries out that his punishment is more than he can bear. He rejected God and became not a seeker but rather a “restless wanderer of the earth.” From then until now, that is the condition of despair that many of us suffer each and every day.
Many today claim to be “seekers” and many churches are “seeker friendly,” and that is a very good thing. But we should also keep in mind that God is never far away; He is near, and He is ready to embrace us if only we will turn to Him. We should always ask ourselves: are we running toward God, or are we running away? And if we are running away, why are we running away?