Do you ever feel that God has hidden His face from you?
Probably not. I don’t either, of course. (I don’t think respectable Christians feel that way.)
But sometimes the psalmists felt it. Their words describe it as an experience with a pain scale ranging from desperate to terrifying:
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?—Psalm 13:1
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.—Psalm 27:9
Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.—Psalm 30:7
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?—Psalm 44:24
And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.—Psalm 69:17
Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?—Psalm 88:14
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.—Psalm 102:2
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.—Psalm 104:29
Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.—Psalm 143:7
So, even though respectable Christians (except for some of the penmen of Scripture) don’t feel this, if you ever did, what can you do?
What do you do when your mind goes foggy and your thinking becomes muddled? When you know God is there, but you can’t sense His presence or find His “face”? When your heart cries out, “Thy face, LORD, will I seek” but in the same breath you plead, “And hide not Thy face” because it really seems that He has?
Where do you find God when you are seeking His face, but it seems to be hidden?
In truth, there are many answers to that question from God’s Word (and, in full disclosure, recorded throughout the pages of my own journal). But I think the first is to recognize that your experience is not unique. It is shared by even the psalmists of Scripture, as well as by dedicated servants of the Lord through the ages.
Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, and David Brainerd all suffered from these seasons—not to mention Job, Moses, and Jeremiah.
You can tell yourself “respectable Christians don’t feel this way,” or you can believe history and recognize that they do.
But that’s not finding God—it’s just recognizing that the sense He has hidden His face is a legitimate feeling. So where do you find Him?
Where your eyes meet the eyes of God
This post actually began in my heart after I read this paragraph by Amy Carmichael:
But our Father is never nearer than in a cloudy evening, and we looked at the bow set in the cloud, “And the bow shall be in the cloud: and I will look upon it [Genesis 9:16].” And God looks at the bow, and you look at the bow, and your eyes meet the eyes of God.—Amy Carmichael, Plowed Under, page 109.
The rainbow is God’s sign of promise. It shines through the clouds, assuring us of the promises the grey skies try to obscure. And in this sign of promise—through the promise itself—we find the face of God.
But it’s not just the rainbow.
A written rainbow
You and I have something that the psalmists only had in part—a written revelation of God. And included in this written record are exceeding great and precious promises.
Promises that don’t change because grey clouds fog our minds.
Promises that remain constant though our perception of them falters.
Promises that assure us of God’s presence when our feelings suggest otherwise.
Promises that allow us to meet the eyes of God.
Before the rainbow shines
So yes, God’s servants sometimes feel He has hidden His face.
Yes, it is a desperate feeling.
No, you can’t force God to lift the fog.
But yes, you can open His Word and meet Him whom your soul loves through His promises.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:—1 Peter 1:7–8