A FEW weeks ago I was reading a column by a respected theologian who wrote about the challenges of serving ``a God who hides Himself.'' The writer is a man of strong faith who leads a life of considerable Christian service. But one can't help feeling in that phrase ``a God who hides Himself'' a longing for a God who shows Himself, a God who makes Himself more evident in daily life. Don't we all share the longing many have for a God who is more evident in relieving the distress and suffering so many experience in their lives? It's certainly not unusual to feel a longing for the spiritual. Even in the stablest life the challenges of raising one's children, of making decisions on the job, of responding to the moral and ethical dilemmas that come up in daily interaction, make one wonder: Am I doing the right thing? How can I do better? The lapses in behavior or the illness of a colleague or friend, even the daily news, can have us wishing for some spiritual core, some foundation, that could ground us, guide us, or at least provide us with a sense of hope.
Of course, religion has frequently been referred to as an opiate, a placebo. But it doesn't take much living to see how fully that misses the point. Yes, there are days when we'd like to hide and not face the world. But spiritual hunger is radically different from that. Actually, it's the heart's rebellion at the thought that we should merely endure the status quo.
And so within most of us is a longing for an experience with God -- with a God who is evident. We're looking for the kind of assurance that the Apostle Paul had when he said to the men of Athens: ``As I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.... In him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.''1
Paul's message was simple. The power and presence of God have been made evident. God is not far-off; He is ``a very present help in trouble.''2 Man is not an outcast or a spiritual orphan but can actually claim God as his Father. Unlike human fathers, God is a Father of unquenchable love, inseparable from His children.
In Paul's life, in which his friends sometimes failed him, in which he faced shipwreck, starvation, and poverty, in which he was imprisoned and beaten for his beliefs, in which his fellow workers sometimes were just plain quarrelsome and selfish, Paul was never deprived of direct evidence of the love and power of God ever with him. His God did not hide Himself. He was manifestly ever present and delivered Paul from all sorts of physical hazards and mental anguish.
And how had the apostle found God? In an understanding of the spiritual message that underlay the life of Christ Jesus. Paul had persecuted Jesus' followers. But his misunderstanding and hatred fell before the love of God that Jesus' life exemplified.
The message Jesus gave to mankind is neither outdated nor dead. It's still pretty startling. He taught: God is not absent nor disengaged nor holding mankind at arm's length. The power and love of God are at hand, here, with us now. They can be felt and seen now. Jesus extended a message not merely of hope but of proof. People's characters were reformed and transformed. The tyranny of sensuality was overthrown. People were comforted, found life purpose; their affections were renewed. Men, women, and children were healed. Jesus brought into people's experience a God who is very much at hand.
Jesus' life and its message of divine Love speak for all time. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need. It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good.''3
The longing to know God, to find Him, the search for spiritual nourishment, is by no means fruitless. It is answered now through an understanding of the significance of Christ Jesus' life. Christian Science makes the message of his life understandable today and gives everyone the opportunity to prove that God is not hiding Himself but is evident now and is wonderfully near.
1Acts 17:23, 28. 2Psalms 46:1. 3Science and Health, p. 494. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 31:34