george hancock stefanThose of us who studied theology love to sometimes use Latin, Greek or Hebrew words, but I rarely use them without translating them. As I was thinking of this article, the expression “Deus Absconditus” came to mind. It means the hidden God. Protestant theology is not at ease discussing this concept. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology are more prepared to discuss those times in which God’s presence is hidden.

It is no secret in any church – Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox - that we in the Western and Eastern world are experiencing a decrease in church membership, a decrease in attendance, and a decrease in the number of people who are willing to become pastors or missionaries. This drastic change is happening in conservative and liberal churches. Some conservative churches feel that if they had kept a solid theological position, they would be better. Other churches believe that if they have no theological position, people will flock to their churches. 

The absence of growth made me think of that obscure book of the Prophet Habakkuk.  He wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

What made Habakkuk trust in God in spite of the evidence?  What made William Carey, the father of modern missions, stay in India and learn about Indian culture and religion even though he did not have a single convert for six years? Even in Elijah’s most glorious moment, when God spoke to the prophets of Baal through fire, the evil queen Jezebel was on the throne and the nation of Israel continued to be idolatrous. In the midst of his depression God told Elijah that 7,000 other Israelites stood with him on the Lord’s side. 

When I reflect on the hiddenness of God, I remember the faithfulness of God.  I also remember that God wants me to love Him and serve Him for who He is, not simply for the gifts that I receive from Him. Moreover when I think of the church, I remember that the church is so much bigger than the Western world. There are parts of the world in which the church is growing at a fabulous rate.

I do not fully comprehend the plan of God. God tells us in one verse of Scripture that as high the heavens are from the earth, so are His thought higher than our thoughts. I rest in the knowledge that, in the final instance, God will work perfection in us as he did with His Son. Jesus asked His Father to deliver Him, yet concluded by saying, “Not my will, but thine be done” as he submitted himself to taking on the cross.