Why God plays Hide and Seek

“How long will you hide your face from me?”    Psalm 13:1

“Where’s Benaiah?” I tease.  “Benaiah where are you?”  Benaiah is right in front of me.  He’s on his knees bending over with his forehead pressed to the floor.  He can’t see me, but I can see him.  Finally, after more coaxing on my part, he giggles and looks up at me.  “There you are!” I exclaim.  “Now I see you!”  Benaiah is my year and a half old grandson. 

Just then his cousin, three year old Sophie runs up to me, jumps on my lap and begs “Grandpa, let’s play hide and seek!”  I cannot help but smile.  I look at her, pause as if to give careful thought to her request, and then blurt out “One, two, three . . .”  And with that Sophie squeals with delight and runs out of the room.  Inwardly I squeal with delight as well, because I know that when I find Sophie she is going to jump for joy even more enthusiastically! 

It fascinates me that both she and Benaiah can find such sustained pleasure in seeing me reappear after brief moments of separation. 

Why are children so easily entertained playing peekaboo and hide and seek?  Developmental psychologists tell us that it has to do with the concept of object permanence.  Wikipedia defines object permanence as “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard or touched.”  Children gradually develop this understanding up through about age 2.

As spiritual children, it is critical in our spiritual development that we understand God’s object permanence in our lives as well.   We need to know that He is there even when we don’t see Him.  There is a very important parallel here between the way in which children relate to the ones they love and the way in which we relate to our heavenly Father.  It does not take much reading of the Scriptures to notice that sometimes, God also plays hide and seek with us. 

There are obviously a number of different circumstances in which we find Him doing that.  Sometimes He hides His face in response to our sin or self-willed ways.  The children of Israel experienced that numerous times in God’s dealings with them. (Deuteronomy 32:20)  But sometimes it seems as if He hides from us for no apparent reason.  Job experienced that. (Job 13:24)  At least three times in the Psalms, under different circumstances, we see David questioning God as to how long or why – will you “hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, 44:24 & 88:14)

All of us are like David.  Insecurities and frustration surface when we cannot see or feel God’s presence in our lives.  But like a child learning object permanence, we delight when the one we love suddenly appears.  God uses hide and seek experiences with Him to convince us of His object permanence in our lives.  That is why He assures us that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)  Regardless of the reason for God’s hiding from us, His ultimate purpose is to convince us of His faithfulness and deepen our delight and love for Him. 

So do not despair in seasons when you do not see Him.  In the natural and in the spirit it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  God wants us to be like the beloved in the Song of Solomon who when she finally finds her lover after desperately seeking after him, proclaims “when I found the one my heart loves, I held him and would not let him go.” (S of S 3:4)  And so when it seems He is hiding from you, continue to seek after Him and be assured that He will be found by you.  (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

Have you had hide and seek experiences with God?  Please take a moment to share your experience and what you learned.

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3 thoughts on “Why God plays Hide and Seek”

  1. I heard another preacher on the radio just say today that God doesn’t play hide and seek with us. And I thought to myself “Well why can’t I sense him right now like I so often do then?” So thanks for sharing today, it resonates with my spirit and gives me hope in the finding.

  2. Here is an insightful quote from Alan Jones about the spiritual desert that is often part of the experience we have when God seems to be hiding. I found this very helpful in understanding God’s ways.
    “The desert of which I speak is a desert of the spirit: a place of revelation, conversion and transformation. A true revelation is a very disturbing event because it demands a response; and to respond means some kind of inner revolution. It involves being ‘made over,’ being made new, being ‘born again.’ The desert, then, is a place of revolution. In the desert we wait, we weep, we learn to live.”

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