God is a stranger because he’s a divine being who’s always beyond our grasp. He can also be even more distant because we’re the kind of beings who embrace the darkness and resist his light. Together, these things make God feel impossibly hidden. At the same time, God has done everything possible to turn himself into a friend. He sent Jesus to speak, act, and even embody the Father’s will. All of this proves God wants to be known through Jesus.
Biographies are one of my favorite genres to read. You not only get to witness the transformation of someone who will one day change the world, but their experiences also help you reimagine what is possible. You might even feel like you’ve made a new friend along the way because their story has shaped you. And yet, this person will always be a stranger to you. Since you’ve never actually met them, there’s still so much about them you just won’t know.
There’s a similar kind of suspense in knowing God—he’s both a stranger and a friend. Though you feel his presence listening to the Scriptures, deep in prayer, or in the friendships of your faith community, he can feel distant when you need him the most. You can’t always find him, but he always seems to find you.
In theology, this is known as the hidden and revealed God. If you ever feel like God is a stranger, then this article is for you. God is hidden, but that’s only because he wants to be found in the right places. His identity is first fully revealed in his autobiography, the Scriptures. Then he shows up in the incarnation of his Son, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, to confirm what that story says about him. In the end, encountering Jesus means being found by the hidden God.
God is hidden in at least three ways. First, he’s hidden because some aspects of his character are simply beyond our grasp. The poet of Psalm 145 reminds us of this when he says God’s greatness is to be praised, and that his greatness is unsearchable (Ps. 145:3). It’s as if God exists in a different yet overlapping dimension than us. We simultaneously worship his greatness while lacking the ability to appreciate all of its depth. Though his knowledge and power break into our world and change it, the evidence he leaves behind isn’t always easy to decipher (Isa. 40:28; Ps. 147:5). This is why the prophet Isaiah concludes God’s ways are simply higher than human ways (Isa. 55:8-9).
We can’t find God because he exists on a different level than we do, but our moral failures also push God even farther away. Again, the prophet Isaiah makes this clear. He says our “iniquities” separate us from God, stop him from listening to our prayers, and even cause him to turn his face away from our cares and concerns (Isa. 59:2). It’s not just that we’re unable to know God, it’s that sin actively disrupts the divine connection between us.