Why does God remain ‘hidden’ and invisible?

My kid asked me the other day why God doesn’t appear to us face to face, why all the ‘hiding’ and invisibility.

I’m not sure she was serious (we were walking on the way to McD’s and she mentioned it between an observation about why the sky turned so dark suddenly and which happy meal to get) but here are some thoughts anyway.

  1. It’s not self-evident that God’s “invisibility” is a problem in a serious sense.

In fact, Bible stories abound with problems which happened whenever God turned OFF the invisibility act and manifested more directly among us (eg, Exodus, Solomon’s time, Jesus, etc.).

It’s also interesting to note that the disciples were WAY more courageous and powerful in Jesus’ absence than during the 2–3 years of ministry he was with them on earth.

2. Human needs for privacy and “alone time” vary across situations

Many of us do not necessarily want people to be “with us” often, let alone at ALL times. And I don’t mean the ‘obvious’ moments of privacy like answering nature’s call or taking a shower. I mean that many of us have different needs of being alone, of having our own space (even in an office when ppl are around us), of needing to be with just one or two people at certain times (instead of having more company around), etc.

Another example is how, on a daily basis, me and my kids (even though we’re all in the same apartment) only see each other about, uh, 15% of our waking time. We all know we’re near to each other, but we don’t have to be “in each other’s faces” all the time. I can almost guarantee that will totally NOT be cool for our relationship.

Another way of saying this is…

3. In the context of a healthy relationship, the need for a physical (let alone visible) presence is entirely dependent on agent-to-agent dynamics

Eg, my daughter USED to want my physical presence almost 24/7 in the past. Today she doesn’t — yet this says nothing about a lack in me (let alone a problem in our r’ship), and more of growing maturity on her part.

The key point is there’s no absolute link between physical proximity and visibility (which is the issue my daughter brought up about God and us) and strength of relationship.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t wish to OCCASIONALLY see God’s miraculous presence but, hey, maybe this is something I need to trust him with? Especially if my character and my service to my community is the #1 priority?

Because remember that…

4. Not everyone desire and/or can ‘handle’ the physical proximity of even fellow family members, colleagues, friends, etc. what more an infinite being who “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16).

Now, you may say c’mon surely God can ‘accommodate’ being face to face with us.

That’s absolutely true. Except I would suggest the New Testament ALREADY talks about the divine arrangement whereby God remains ‘with’ us whilst being invisible.

Who knows, maybe God has ‘learnt’ that showing up in front of our noses like a Grab delivery guy every now and then isn’t always that helpful, esp if the main agenda is transforming hearts.

So perhaps God has come up with another way, one already promised in the time of Joel (2:28)…

5. There are New Testament verses which talk about the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (Romans 8:9) or about how believers reflect the Lord’s glory (in 2 Cor 3:18 which means, among other things, that they ‘mirror’ God to each other i.e. when Christians see each other we’re “sorta” seeing God).

Then there’s the strange fact that it’s no longer believers who live but Christ who lives IN them (Gal 2:20).


6. From the perspective of PRESENCE and PROXIMITY, it’s simply not true that God has, uh, downplayed these factors (then again, having said that, the RELATIONSHIP is way more important than “VISIBILITY”.)

God is largely invisible (at least to the naked eye) but he’s “set things up” such that faith, love, worship etc. not only endures but even thrives (John 20:29). We can’t see him, but he’s actually quite near (Phil 4:5)

Edu-trainer, Žižek studies, amateur theologian, columnist.