It’s an age-old question: why does God seem to hide from those that love Him? Why does He choose to speak in a still, small whisper instead of an audible voice from the clouds?
When we do good things here in this life on earth, we don’t get a “job well done” from the Lord. When we make a mistake, we don’t hear a voice rebuking us. If our life is shaken by a disaster, we can feel completely abandoned by our Heavenly Father.
Father John Portavella knows exactly what it feels like when God seems to be hiding. In a brand new book, Why God Hides, he shares his personal experience of decades of listening to God’s silence. He has spent years reading, listening, praying and thinking on the silence of God. What Father Portavella discovered is that God is not silent, and He’s not hidden either. Instead, He can be found if we only know how to listen and where to look.
Here are five things to remember when it seems like God is hiding from you:
1. God desires our freedom
“One instance wherein humans deeply experience the absence of a manifested Master is when we face important decisions, such as discerning our vocation in life,” writes Father Portavella. “We tend to ask for signs, but even in these circumstances, God remains concealed. He will not cease to be an unseen God, for He wants us to discover His will in the advice of reliable persons, in prayer, in self-knowledge, and in the events of daily life.”
Father Portavella goes on to explain that God withdraws Himself from our senses so that “man can exercise freedom in search for the truth.”
2. God asks us to choose Him (even when it’s hard)
Sometimes it feels as if we are in the boat with the disciples, caught up in storms. Our spiritual life can be confusing, and we begin to wonder if Jesus is asleep.
“When we face such situations, it is possible to think that God has abandoned us,” Father Portavella writes. “But nothing could be further from reality. It is just that our faith is being tested. Such occasions prompted Saint Paul to tell the first Christians in Rome: ‘How unsearchable are his judgement and inscrutable are his ways!'”
3. Just because we can’t see God doesn’t mean He isn’t near
God’s invisibility in our lives doesn’t mean that He isn’t near to us. “God must be invisible to us,” writes Cardinal Christopher Schonborn, “so that we do not mistake Him for a bit of the world. The less He manifests Himself in a material way, the more we recognize that He stands opposite the world as its Creator.”
Saint Josemaria Escriva confirms this in his writings. “The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men: their desires, their struggles, and their sufferings. He is a Father who loves His children so much that He sends the Word, the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man He may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to Himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts.”
4. God works behind the scenes
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote that God works behind the scenes in our lives. “He works in human history although He does not operate on the first plane,” the saint explained. “He respects the freedom of His creature, but holds in His hands all the world’s happenings. The certitude of the providential action of the Maker is a source of hope for believers who know that he can count on the constant presence of the One Who ‘formed the earth, made it, and established it.'”
Father Benedict affirms his predecessor, writing, “God gives Himself to us. He does not give us something, He gives Himself. And this is not something that happens only at the moment of our conversion. God continues being always the one who gives. He offers us His gifts continuously. He precedes us always.”
5. We can see God even in calamities
After a tsunami hit the coasts of Asia and Africa, a Filipino bishop responded to an American writer who asked “Where was God?” In a newspaper column, the bishop wrote about how God could be seen even in the worst circumstances.
“We can see and not only hear this word of God: in the unprecedented generosity with which the world raised more than $5,000,000,000 for the victims of the tsunami, in response to the appeal of the Pope and bishops for prayers and help; from volunteer-workers and holiday-makers who, on escaping death, stayed to help the hapless vicitims. God speaks His word of love in the erasure of the boundaries and distinctions among people. . . This terible tragedy brought about a new sense of a great, single, human family.”
Why God Hides is an incredible book that dispels the darkness in moments of desolation. Father Portavella gives incredible insight into God. He allows us to see that God doesn’t hide from our lives. If you’re looking for glimpses of consolation, pick up a copy of this book at your local bookstore or purchase it online here.