Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 11, 2015

Does God hide from us?

Some folks have a secret hideout inside a home closet. That seems like a better idea than a five-hundred pound safe. Hideouts are useful in guarding precious things from thieves.

Hideouts were important to some of us when we were children. I can remember having a secret hideout in the woods behind our house. And I can remember hiding in the darkness of my closet when one of my parents was calling me. Some of us can recall the fun of playing “hide and seek” with other children when we were growing up.

As we grow older and indulge in what the church calls “sin,” we may wish we could hide from God. Or we may harbor the faint hope that God was so busy he did not see what we were doing. The Bible ruins that idea by reminding us that even the darkness is light to God. King David even said that if he hid out in hell God would find him there.

Actually it is good news that God is everywhere and never hides from us. We may try to hide from him but God does not play hide and seek. God may be silent at times but never hides. Add to God’s omnipresence the fact that he loves us and you have some really good news about our Creator. 

What, then, is God doing? He is waiting, yearning for us to find him. Yet, ironically, when we find God we discover that it was he who found us! He wants an intimate relationship with us so that we know and love him as a child loves a father. But he waits, longingly, for us to seek him, to find him and be found by him.

God respects the freedom he has given us as his children so he chooses not to force his way into our hearts. In love he waits, even as the father of the prodigal son waited with open arms for his lost son to come home.

This image of a waiting God does not mean that God is indifferent toward us. To the contrary, the God we meet in the Bible is still in charge of his world. Though global chaos may suggest that God is asleep or uncaring, God is still the Mighty God who “holds the whole world in his hands.”

Nothing surprises God. When things appear dark and dreadful to us, God is not discouraged. He knows what is going to happen. He has a plan. His plans for us are good, always good. 

In every age the prophets of doom predict the collapse of the world. And disaster does occur from time to time. But God always has his own prophets who remind us that God has not resigned from the management of the world. Hundreds of years ago one such prophet was Jeremiah. He warned the people of Judah that disaster was coming. Then disaster came. Babylonia’s armies escorted the Jews out of Jerusalem into exile. Jeremiah was not forced to leave the holy city. From there he continued to counsel the people to have faith in God.

His message was one of hope. He advised the people not to give up. He assured them that the exile would end one day. In the meantime he advised the people to be faithful to God even in captivity.

Refuse to feel sorry for yourselves, Jeremiah said. Do not indulge in self-pity. Get busy doing positive things. Build homes. Plant gardens. Enjoy food from your own gardens. Raise families. Give your sons and daughters in marriage so they can have children and multiply. Get over your disappointments and enjoy life.

Remember, he said, that you are in Babylonia because God sent you there. You are where he wants you to be just now. So work for the good of your new home town and pray for its prosperity. Pray for the city of your captivity.

This was strong medicine for the people to swallow. They were not to hate their captors but pray for them to prosper. Your welfare, he told them, is dependent upon the welfare of the city in which you now live.

Jeremiah received word that there were false prophets in Babylonia, telling lies to the Jews. He warns the people not to believe the lies they were hearing. Instead accept your punishment and understand that God is still in charge. When he has finished punishing you, he will bring you back home. God will not fail to keep his promise to bring you back to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah gave us one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). 

Here was a message of hope for enslaved people! God has good plans for your life! It is a message needed in today’s troubled world. Though God will allow bad things to happen to us, it is never his intention to harm us.

We will not be spared hard times. Jesus made this crystal clear when he said, “in this world you will have tribulation.” We will have trouble. But when trouble comes, we can call upon God and he will hear us.

When we are suffering we may suppose God is hiding from us. But listen to what Jeremiah said to the captives: “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Jeremiah articulated the offer. Jesus confirmed it with his life, death and resurrection. Joy and intimacy with God are ours for the asking! His plans for us are good. When we seek him with all our hearts, we will find him – and soon rejoice that actually he found us! + + +