Why does God seem to hide from us?
“‘. . . Then he also went, not publicly, but as it were in secret’ (Jn 7.10). This preference for hiddenness, for remaining unseen, seems to have been a definite impulse of Jesus, clearly depicted on a few occasions in the gospel. It appears he wanted to go unobserved during certain interludes, to pass shrouded through the crowds, inconspicuous and ordinary, even after he began his public life. Surely this desire to remain unrecognized cannot have been a capricious gesture. What is happening here, since in other places he is intent on revealing himself? Does it give hint of a divine attribute which we have not named properly, and yet of vital importance for knowing God’s relations with our soul? These occasions when he desired to remain concealed and unnoticed, are they showing us the shape and contour, as it were, of the only encounter with God at times available to us? Must we necessarily seek him in his hiddenness if we are to find him?” (Fr. Donald Haggerty, Contemplative Provocations)
“The Silence of God.” That’s the name of a song on Michael Card’s CD, The Hidden Face of God. After my talk last Monday night, one woman mentioned to me that the part of my talk that gave her the most hope was when I talked about the “door” that I experienced at one point coming down between me and God. She hoped that I would talk more about that sometime, and I promised her that I would. I have recently been reading the book Michael Card wrote, of the same name as his album. In one chapter, he writes about Jesus facing the silence of God–during His agony in the garden. Christ calls out in anguish to His Father.
But where is the response of God? None of the Gospels record a single word. The answer to the most impassioned plea of the Son of God was the silence of God.
God spoke audibly at least three times int he life of Jesus: at the baptism (Matthew 3.16-17), at the “coming of the Greeks” (John 12.28), and at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17.5). In both instances in Matthew God says, “This is my Son.” The words are addressed to the witnesses, not directly to Jesus. . . . In John, at the coming of the Greeks, in response to Jesus’ prayer “Father, glorify your name,” God says, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” But Jesus’ explanation of the Father’s words to the crowd hint that perhaps, even here, God was not talking to Him. “This voice was for you, not for my sake,” Jesus says.
These incidents hint at something that is extremely sad and also wonderfully encouraging at the same time. Perhaps Jesus, even Jesus, lived His life, as we all do, within the context of the silence of God.
We usually imagine Jesus’ prayer sessions as “sweet communion.” But perhaps more often they were like the time of bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps this garden prayer was more representative of His entire prayer life. I must say that this thought brings a certain sadness, to think that still another part of Jesus’ suffering for me was that in His Incarnation, He chose to be silently cut off from God in the same way that you and I are cut off. And yet at the same time, it fills me with a hope that is beyond words, that Jesus, even Jesus, in experiencing every part of humanity (except for sin) knew what it was like to call out to the Father and hear only the silence of God in response! If this is true, you and I are not–and cannot be–alone in this frustrating experience ever again. It means that every time we suffer the silence of God, it is an occasion to be brought closer to Jesus. It means that He has chosen to join us in that silence and fill it with His understanding Presence. (Michael Card, The Hidden Face of God, pp. 152-3)