I squinted my eyes, blinking in disbelief, then squinted once more. There were so many stars! I’d focus on a seemingly dark patch between the bright pinpoints of light and soon see fainter stars hidden there. It was a sky unlike any I’d ever seen, even though I’ve lived under that very same sky every day of my life.
Camping up in Rocky Mountain National Park as a child, away from the obscuring effects of light pollution, I saw the night sky like I’ve never seen it since: bright stars that are always there but that lie behind a veil my vision cannot penetrate.
Present, brilliant, but obscured. A bit like God.
In his Pensées, mathematician Blaise Pascal made this observation regarding faith: “There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.” God makes himself known and, in myriad ways, points us toward himself. He gives us just enough light to believe.
And yet God also maintains a degree of hiddenness. For some, this leads to a rejection of faith altogether. But what theologians call the “hiddenness of God” is a reality of the Christian life. One text from Christian history refers to this as the “cloud of unknowing,” acknowledging that for all we can understand and experience of God, he is also in many ways beyond our ability to sense and comprehend.
So what does it look like to have faith in a God who, as the hymn says, is “hid from our eyes”? Are emotional encounters with God necessary for real belief? What role does the intellect play? Sabrina Hardy wrestles with these important questions in this issue’s cover story. And in “Worshiping With (or Without) Passion,” Christy Nockels discusses how the will and the heart integrate in our choice to faithfully worship—whether we feel like it or not.
Emotions can play an important role in our faith. We may feel close to God, we may cry or break out in a smile during worship, we may deeply sense his presence, or we may experience his love in a profoundly emotional way. These “mountaintop experiences” can strengthen our spirits and provide vigor for our faith journey.
But we can so easily err by turning faith into a chase after those mountaintops. When emotional experiences elude us, we may be tempted to manufacture them. When God seems hidden rather than close, we may even wonder, Is my faith real?
I’ve recently been reveling in the World War II novel All the Light We Cannot See. The metaphor of light has layers of meaning in the story, but one particularly important idea is the message a poor, German orphan hears on a radio broadcast in 1934: “What do we call visible light? We call it color. But . . . really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.”
Scientifically speaking, there is indeed so much light we simply cannot see. This is true theologically as well. In faith we hold fast to what we can see and live in conviction about what we cannot as we worship the One the early Christians called “Light of Light, very God of very God.”
Kelli B. Trujillo
Chasing the Hidden God
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