Resting in the Hiddenness of God
Christ has deposited spiritual treasures in each of our lives—talents, experiences, and perspectives that invigorate our capacity to minister. But have you ever thought that, if you possessed a more visible platform or were placed in a more prestigious position, you would produce more abundantly for the kingdom of God?
The temptation doesn’t solely exist for those in ministry. I think, on one occasion or another, every Christian experiences this longing, because we want to witness the redeemed lives and restored communities in as considerable a quantity as possible.
But for a lot of us, neither the quality nor quantity of abundance is there. We wonder, why does God have me working this job, in this location, at this church, with these kinds of believers?
Such times feel like a senseless beating, causing us to question whether we heard God’s voice correctly. Then, Satan blitzes, manufacturing disorder and scheming to put our backs in the dirt. Before long, we withdraw, yearning for a promotion or an exfiltration strategy.
Colossians 3:1-3 reads, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Every believer will jovially give an amen to that verse. It gives us that warmth, the assurance that Christ has, does, and will protect us. But what if we’re not hearing and believing the verse’s entirety?
Set your minds on things above. What if, in your current and seemingly substandard situation, God is instructing you in the ways of His hiddenness? Could it be that He’s asking you to deposit your treasure no matter the real estate you occupy?
Let’s look at three Old Testament figures and observe how each of them never wasted a good beating.
No Need for Optimal
We’ve all heard the story of Joseph in childhood Sunday school lessons or church sermons, and the story reads so simply to most: Bible character takes hard knocks but gets the spoils, authority, and reconciliation in the end.
But Joseph’s narrative nurtures something richer—God’s hiding of his elect. The young dreamer got shanghaied into slavery by his brothers; was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of attempted sexual assault; tossed in prison; and forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief butler for a time, even when he interpreted the man’s dream.
Yet amidst that hiddenness, God made provisions for Joseph. Potiphar gave Joseph authority over his household affairs. The prison warden established Joseph as the other prisoners’ keeper. And Joseph remained committed to honoring God despite the chaos created by his brothers, by the lies of Potiphar’s wife, and by the short memory of Pharaoh’s chief butler.
All the time, God placed responsibility upon Joseph’s shoulders, even though life gave him nothing but beating after beating.
We know how the story ends. At age 30, Joseph ascends to second-in-command of all of Egypt after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He gained jurisdiction over Pharaoh’s house, the matters of the kingdom, and the sustainability of food supplies in preparation for the years of famine. His family was reconciled to him, and God used Joseph’s presence in Egypt to settle the Israelites there, which catalyzed their eventual bondage, release, and endowment as God’s covenant people.
Before his breakthrough, Joseph’s experiences were anything but optimal. However, Joseph sustained himself on God’s mercy, holding onto what God was doing in the midst of those quagmires instead of murmuring about his hard knocks or clamoring to return to Israel after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.
God didn’t need Joseph to be in the optimal circumstances, with the optimal resources, or with the optimal people. He deployed Joseph in affairs that galvanized him, preparing him for the ultimate role he would fulfill.
Out of Sight, Not Out of His Plan
The next Biblical hard knock hall-of-famer is Nehemiah. His name evokes images of rebuilt walls and restoration, but before then, he was continually taking a beating. Though a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah remained in exile, mourning the city of Jerusalem’s annihilation.
Even the king noticed his cupbearer’s grief and inquired into what troubled him. That’s when Nehemiah took the initiative and poured out his heart to Artaxerxes, explaining his longing to rebuild the Jerusalem’s walls.
God had hidden Nehemiah in the king’s palace for such a time. Artaxerxes not only gave his permission but also resources and protection.
But the beatings didn’t end there. During the wall’s reconstruction, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab spread disinformation, writing a letter to the king claiming that Nehemiah was going to lead a rebellion.
They were furious at the progress being made, so they mocked the Jews, then conspired to attack the builders to incite confusion and terminate the construction. When the Israelites armed themselves and posted lookouts, their enemies went for the man at the top. They tried to arrange a meeting with Nehemiah on the plains of Ono, where they would ostensibly gut him like the proverbial fish.
When Nehemiah refused, his enemies placed a secret informer, Shemaiah, who tried to draw him into the temple, claiming that enemies were coming to assassinate him. The ulterior plan had been to kill Nehemiah inside the temple.
As we know, Nehemiah survived all of the machinations and guided the restoration of Jerusalem. His natural reaction could have been to hunker down, maximize his comfort, and seek better pastures back in Artaxerxes’ court.
He had every right to adopt an Eeyore mindset, complaining that God had forgotten about him, as well as Israel. Yet, like Joseph, he grasped a critical element of God’s hiddenness—that God required him in exile and servitude so he could accomplish the forthcoming reestablishment of Jerusalem. God took the treasures in Nehemiah, namely his repentant heart for Israel’s sins and his craving for Jerusalem’s reconstruction, and deposited them in His eternal arrangements.
Lesson learned. God will export your calling exactly where it needs to be, even when you see yourself as out of sight and out of mind.
Anomaly in Plain Sight
Our final case study is Daniel, another familiar character. But his story isn’t just about the miracle in lions’ den. He was part of a select group of Jewish exiles in Babylon who were gathered to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
Daniel’s wisdom, academic acumen, and integrity allowed him to soak up the foremost of Chaldean language and literature. We know that Daniel stood first among equals in providing expert advice and interpreting dreams. Through the Holy Spirit, Daniel revealed the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, explained the prophetic significance of the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar, and was made a ruler of a province and chief administrator over the wise men of Babylon.
Not bad for a Jewish exile, yet still, he was a captive in a pagan land. Nonetheless, he practiced the art of hiddenness, setting himself apart from other wise men in the king’s court. He refused to partake of the king’s delicacies, openly prayed three times a day toward Jerusalem, and would not obey the decree to worship Darius as a god.
Honoring Daniel’s steadfastness, God sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths, which convicted Darius of God’s sovereignty.
The study of Daniel reveals that God requires many of us to be an anomaly in unfamiliar territory. We can’t bring glory to Christ when we’re operating just like our peers. God hid Daniel in the king’s court so that He could employ him at the opportune times, eventually causing multiple pagan kings to acknowledge the God of Israel.
The Refuge in Hiddenness
What did Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel all have in common? Each man likely didn’t see his location as the choicest. They were in unfamiliar territory, in pagan nations. Yet God hid them in centers of influence. Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Nehemiah had direct access to Artaxerxes as his cupbearer. Daniel worked as an advisor in the Babylonian court. And the Almighty functioned silently until each man’s time of revelation occurred.
So what can we take from these stories? First, we can be content in God’s hiddenness, though we may think we don’t get our due or enough opportunities. When we understand that God places us where He needs our labor, not where we attain the most visibility or acclaim. Servanthood doesn’t require third-party documentation of each moment; the Father’s sovereignty takes care of that. Read Joseph’s story to trace this sovereignty in action.
Second, we can rest in the reality that God reconfigures that which looks like hell into a resource for spiritual increase. What appears to be your exile could end up becoming your prime placement. The forgotten corners of this country (and world) need ministers who understand what it’s like to be hidden. Look at Daniel’s narrative to recognize that God’s hiddenness has a precision for the right moment, right time, and right place.
Third, when the Spirit calls you to move, get going and don’t fall into double-mindedness about it. Whether God is calling you into a suboptimal situation (in your eyes) or directing you toward that promotion you’ve labored for, mind the gap when others can’t see the vision God’s given to you.
God never hides his faithful without decisively arranging their skills for a critical moment when others must recognize His glory. The number of those who bear witness is not your concern, for clicks, views, and crowds will always fluctuate.
It’s these questions that believers must answer: Will you be humble in your hiddenness? Will you view your misfortunes as opportunities to rely on Christ? And will you act faithfully when the moment demands your ascension and servanthood?
Heavy questions, I know. Yet the Colossians 3 anchor holds steady, reminding us that we are under the same adoption as Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel. And our hiddenness does not confine us to the dark, but rather, every beating in life we suffer can be an opportunity for redemption, especially when we take refuge under the Almighty’s outspread wings.