Why Does No One Ever See God?
by J. R. Miller, 1912
There are many sincere Christians who are longing for clearer revealings of God. An earnest young Christian wrote to her pastor: "I find myself ever asking, as I read the New Testament, "These things are very beautiful—but do we know that they are true?" Several years since, a writer told of two girls who were overheard one evening talking as if in perplexity, and one of them said: "Yes—but why has no one ever seen God?" This was all that was heard of the conversation—but that single sentence revealed the questioner's state of mind. Evidently she had been talking about the apparent unreality of spiritual things. Why had nobody ever seen God? She had heard a great deal about God—about his love, his care, his interest in human lives, his kindness. But she had never had a glimpse of him. How could she know that all she had heard about him was true? How could she know that the things of Christian faith and hope, were real?
Such questions will arise with all who think. Does God indeed love me? If he does, why must I suffer so? If he does, how can I explain all the accidents, calamities, and troubles of life? It is not surprising, if sometimes we cannot understand the mysteries of Christian faith. All of life is full of things which we cannot comprehend. Can you understand how, on the bushes in your garden, which in March were bare and briery, there are coming masses of glorious roses? In the most common things there is mystery. A great botanist said that there was enough mystery in a handful of moss, to give one a lifetime's study. There really are but few things we can understand. How do your eyes see? How do your ears hear? How does your mind think? Shall we refuse to believe these things—because we cannot explain them?
Why, then, should we doubt that when a mother sat by her suffering child the other night, and pleaded with God, her prayer reached the ears of her Heavenly Father? Why do we question that God loves us, when we believe that our human friends love us? You cannot see the love in your friend's heart—any more than you can see the love in God's heart. You say that your friend is true, is patient, is kind, that he is a tower of strength to you; but you cannot see these qualities in him. Your friend is much out of your sight, and you cannot set spies on him to know that he is always faithful. Yet you never doubt him. How can you not in like manner, believe in the love of God, which you cannot see?
A sorrow breaks in upon you. You cannot understand it. Yet—we would be far happier sometimes, if we did not try to understand things. Sir Robertson Nicoll says: "There are some very devout people who know far too much. They can explain the whole secret and purpose of pain, evil, and death in the world. They prate about the mystery of things—as if they were God's spies. It is far humbler and more Christian, to admit that we do not fully know the reason and method in this long, slow tragedy of human existence."
But God does really show himself to us, and we do see him oftener than we think. Philip said to Jesus: "Lord, show us the Father;" and have you noticed what Jesus said to him in reply? "Have I been so long time with you, and have you not known me? He who has seen me has seen the Father." What Philip had in mind when he said: "Show us the Father," was some outshining of God's majesty and splendor. That was the way he thought God must appear. When Jesus said: "He who has seen me has seen the Father," he referred to his common, daily life with his disciples—not to his miracles. Only a small proportion of the things Jesus did were supernatural. Most all of his acts were simple, common things, that did not need deity to perform. He wrought only one recorded miracle in the Bethany home. But in his frequent visits—sitting with the family by the hearth, or at the table, talking with them in the evening, walking with them in the garden, showing them the gentle things of friendship—there were a thousand kindly words and acts, which made his name forever sacred to them.
It was so in all Christ's life. There were a few miracles, showing divine power; there were countless revealings of gentleness, sympathy, thoughtfulness, encouragement, which were as full of God as the miracles. It was chiefly to this part of his life, that Jesus referred when he said to Philip: "He who has seen me has seen the Father." His miracles awed them. Mary could not have sat at his feet and listened calmly—if he had appeared in glory and majesty. John could not have leaned on his breast restfully and quietly—if supernatural glory had been shining in his face. God is love, and he reveals himself in acts of love. Jesus showed the disciples the Father—in all the sweetness and compassion that they saw in him continually. Do we not see him in like ways? Does he not reveal himself to us in a thousand familiar things, which we do not think of at all—as divine revealings?
A writer says that most men are religious when they look upon the faces of their dead babies. The materialism which at other times infects them with doubts of God and immortality, drops from them in this hushed hour.
People see God only in the unusual. "If we could see miracles," they say, "we would believe!" But the common things are likewise full of God. Moses saw God in one bush which burned and was not consumed. Yet God is as really in every bush in the woods—for those who have eyes to see—as he was in a special way in that little bush at Horeb. Have you never seen God? If you think of God as only burning majesty, shining glory, you will answer: "No—I never saw God!" But splendor, Sinai clouds, and flaming fires are not God. You have seen God a thousand times—in love, in peace, in goodness, in comfort. You see him daily in providential care, in the sweet things of your home, in friendships, in the beauty of little children. You have been receiving blessings all your life in manifold ways. Do not call it chance, luck, or good fortune!
The heart-hungry girl asked: "Why has no one ever seen God?" Yet she had seen God every day, every hour of her life, in the goodness and mercy which had followed her from her infancy. You have seen God a thousand times! You were in danger, and there came a mysterious protection which sheltered you from harm. You called it chance; but it was God! You had a great sorrow which you thought you could not possibly endure, and there came into your heart a strange, sweet comfort. You thought a friend brought it; but God sent the friend! There was a tangle in your affairs which seemed about to wreck everything, and then in an inexplicable way it was all straightened out by invisible hands. The hands were God's! Your years have been full of wonderful providences, unusual guidances, gentle comforts, answered prayers, sweet friendships, surprises of goodness, help, and care. All your life you have been seeing God! Do not question it—but rejoice in the vision, that you may see him still more!