Before I learned to trust God, I learned to trust the world he created. By repeated experience, I came to expect the sweetness that accompanied sugar-coated Chex in the morning before school. I was introduced to the sting that asphalt brings when it meets my knee, and the fullness of heart I felt when holding a pretty girl’s hand. The world taught me what it meant to sense, to know, and to understand. It taught me to see.
If we know Jesus, we now know there are things unseen that—despite being hidden—demand our attention:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.— Romans 1:20
We see God’s created world and yet we don’t recognize him in it. His gentle whisper reaches our ears,1 yet we often don’t understand what he says. We begin to investigate the depths of God, searching for him using the only tools we’ve been given: our physical senses and our capacity to reason. Scripture tells us that if we attempt to know God in the same way that we know the world, we are bound for frustration.
It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given...seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.— Matthew 13:11-13
The certainty by which we know worldly things is not the same certainty we should initially expect in our walk with Christ. We are sensitive to spiritual truth only after we’ve been calibrated to understand it. This calibration happens as we struggle to reorient our lives around the simple yet earthshaking knowledge of Jesus Christ and him crucified.2 However, even when we gain such spiritual awareness, watching and listening to God can still feel like walking with a bum leg. Putting these new senses to use requires us to flex a muscle that has atrophied from frequent neglect. Like any other learned skill, strengthening this ability takes time.
It is often the frustration of uncertainty, beyond the uncertainty itself, that keeps us from seeking God. Unable to clearly articulate the question “God, why don’t you show yourself?”—much less find an answer to it—we stop looking for God altogether. C. S. Lewis delicately captures this sentiment. In Til We Have Faces, Orual feels the gods’ dim presence as they draw near to her, only to pull away again. Near the end of her life, she is given a chance to confront the gods for teasing her with their ephemeral presence. After bringing her grievance before them, she discovers:
The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered...I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?
Rather than letting our sense of uncertainty become an immovable obstacle to our walk with God, we are often called to simply endure the statement “It’s okay that I don’t understand” and diligently pursue God3 in spite of our not knowing or understanding. We belong to a God who reveals deep and secret things.4 He leads us through the fog of doubt slowly, step by step, if only we'll agree to follow.
1 1 Kings 19:12 2 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 3 Hebrews 11:6 4 Daniel 2:20-23