Hiding from God and God’s Hiddenness

I have written a number of times about the “hiddenness” of God. It is a very important aspect of how He makes Himself known (though I know that is a paradox). His hiddenness both protects our freedom and removes compulsion from our relationship with God. There can be no compulsion where there is love. I found a small verse from the writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian that offers some thoughts:

Lord, Your symbols are everywhere,
yet You are hidden from everywhere.
Though Your symbol is on hight,
yet height does not perceive that You are;
though Your symbol is in the depth,
it does not comprehend who You are;
though Your symbol is in the sea,
You are hidden from the sea;
though Your symbol is on dry land,
it is not aware what You are.
Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!

St. Ephrem’s use of the word “symbol” is in its ancient sense: something which makes present that which it represents. It is not something which stands in place of that which is absent (the more modern definition). St. Ephrem is celebrating the mystery that the God who is “everywhere present and filling all things,” is also the Hidden One, and yet also the One who is “shining out.”

This mystery comes to rest in the human heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We do not see God because He is everywhere present – we see Him everywhere present because our hearts are made pure. The darkness of our hearts does not reveal God to us – it distorts our perception of the world, of people, and certainly of God. Thus the darkened heart often projects its own darkness onto a concept of God and teaches falsely.

It is in this darkness of the heart that we find ourselves “hiding” from God. It is instructive that in the narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden following their sin, they seek to hide from God. God does not hide from them, but rather seeks them out, calling them by name. Their response is a distortion of the facts. Man hides within his lies.

God does not hide from us in order to condemn us – the “hiddenness” of God is a hiddenness in His light. And so He draws us forth from the darkness and into the light that we may know Him – everywhere present.

Blessed is the Hidden One shining out!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





8 responses to “Hiding from God and God’s Hiddenness”

  1. Barbara Avatar

    This posting reminds me of a wonderful story I heard about a Rabbai comforting his weeping grandson who was left abandoned in his hiding spot when his friend gave up searching for him during a hide and seek game. The Rabbai told his grandson that his experience was the ongoing experience of God who is always waiting to be found by us.

  2. A Genius of Compression Avatar
    A Genius of Compression

    “The darkness of our hearts does not reveal God to us – it distorts our perception of the world, of people, and certainly of God. Thus the darkened heart often projects its own darkness onto a concept of God and teaches falsely.” – Father Stephen Freeman

    I find it interesting that if God is hidden from us, it is primarily because we do not know how to see Light.

    Psalm 36:9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your Light we see light.

    “Man hides within his lies” – Father Stephen Freeman

    This is a fascinating statement.

    Romans 1:21-23

    21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

  3. George Avatar

    And the biggest lie is that I am seperate from God. That I am independent of Him. We are darkness without God’s Light. I pray frequently that Jesus Christ fill the darkness that I am and make me the Light.

  4. mark Avatar

    Christ is risen!

    Thank you for another shaving off this great Saint’s endless ration of Light!
    Fr. Stephen you write often about loving our enemies.
    I was saddened by the response of cheering when a recent infamous enemy was killed. Can you give us a reflection on this- the loss of life, a distorted human life certainly, but how should we as Orthodox respond?
    It is impossible for me to believe real justice is in the destruction of life, especially brought home in this Paschal Tide.

    Thank you;
    -Mark Basil

  5. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless!

    Met. Anthony Bloom of blessed memory has a wonderful little book on prayer, which I have been rereading parts of. He has a wonderful chapter on the absence of God, with many similar points along the lines you have written here, some of it from a slightly different angle. He writes:

    “. . . To meet God face to face in prayer is a critical moment in our lives, and thanks be to Him that he does not always present Himself to us when we wish to meet Him, because we might not be able to endure such a meeting. . . . He does not come in an untimely way. He gives us a chance to judge ourselves, to understand, and not to come into His presence at a moment when it would mean condemnation.

    “I would like to give you an example of this. Many years ago a man came to me. He asked me to show him God. I told him I could not but I added that even if I could, he would not be able to see Him, because I thought –and I do think–that to meet God one must have something in common with Him, something that gives you eyes to see, perceptiveness to perceive. He asked me then why I thought as I did, and I suggested that he should think a few moments and tell me whether there was any passage in the Gospel that moved him particularly, to see what was the connection between him and God. He said ‘Yes in the eight chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, the passage concerning the woman taken in adultery.’ I said, ‘Good, this is one of the most beautiful and moving passages. Now sit back and ask yourself, who are you in the scene which is described? Are you the Lord, or at least on His side, full of mercy, of understanding and full of faith in this woman who can repent and become a new creature? Are you the woman taken in adultery? Are you one of the older men who walk out at once because they are aware of their own sins, or one of the young ones who wait? He thought for a few minutes then said ‘No, I feel I am the only Jew who would not have walked out but who would have stoned the woman.’ I said ‘Thank God that He does not allow you to meet with Him face to face.’”

    I was also struck by this short paragraph:

    “There are other ways too in which God is ‘absent’. As long as we ourselves are real, as long as we are truly ourselves, God can be present and can do something with us. But the moment we try to be what we are not, there is nothing left to say or have; we become a fictitious personality, an unreal presence, and this unreal presence cannot be approached by God.”

  6. Tiffani Avatar

    Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

    Thank you for this, Father, and bless you.

  7. Laura Ellen Avatar
    Laura Ellen

    It seems to me that one of the objectives of Christianity is to learn to see rightly. We are blind as bats until Jesus shines His light and we are able to stand in it and really SEE for the first time. Lord Jesus wants to open our eyes and allow the light to enter. He wants us to see as He sees.

  8. Andrew Avatar

    The Lord is good indeed 🙂

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  1. Greetings, Father Stephen, Thank you so much for this reflection and all of the tremendous amount of work you have…

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