One of the important “faith questions” we chaplains often hear is, “Has anyone ever seen God?”
If, on your own faith journey or in your effort to seek the Almighty, you have asked this question, you’re not alone.
Believers of a variety of faiths, as well as doubters, have asked this question since the beginning of time.
Before joining the Air Force, while I was pastoring at a civilian church, a young person, sincerely seeking God approached me and asked that particular question: “Has anyone seen God, like I’m looking at and seeing you as we speak?”
I shared my Christian perspective, which needless to say, led me to respond stating, I had not seen him and nor has anyone else.
In fact even John the evangelist, admitted the same.
In his gospel he writes, “No one has ever seen God.” (John 1:18).
We can go back as far as Abraham and determine that as generation after generation passed, not one could claim that they ever saw God.
We can surely make the case that God is expecting a lot from us — to go on believing, to live by faith, while at the same time knowing there is little possibility of seeing Him this side of the grave.
However, if God were completely and absolutely hidden from us, then belief in God would probably be humanly impossible.
I would submit God has given us more than just a single clue about His presence. Being a believer does not mean we have to be really good detectives, searching and hunting for clues about His existence.
God has not tried to make it as difficult as possible to discover and know Him.
In reality, God has done quite a bit to make His presence known.
First, there are holy books that are the main source for those who believe in God.
You do not have to spend half of your life looking in order to understand and appreciate their messages.
For those persons who do not have the habit of reading the scriptures every day, Christians, for example, can hear some of them every Sunday at church.
Year after year, books such as the Bible, continue to be the number one selling book, so it is clear men and women are not losing their passion to learn about God.
Secondly, nature, for believers, has always been another important indicator and proof of God’s presence and majesty. To one who believes the beauty of nature and the abundance of nature, speak very loudly of the providence and goodness of God.
In Alaska, you’d have to keep your eyes shut 24 hours a day and seven days a week to not notice and admire the exquisite beauty of its natural surroundings. For a believer, the snow in winter, the warmth of the summer months and the plentiful fishing season, renew our trust in God’s loving care, each year.
A saintly nun used to say, “There is no shortage of wonders around us, but only a shortage of wonderers.”
Then, there was the story of Edith Stein, a German Jew who had been an atheist in her teenage years, but converted to Christianity. A young lady once asked her, “When shall I see God?” Edith, who later became a nun, answered simply, “When you open your eyes!” Edith later died in a German concentration camp and was canonized as a saint.
Finally, I guess we easily overlook the chance of seeing God or His presence in the most obvious place of all — in our fellow human beings.
The Book of Genesis clearly says God made the first man and woman in His image. Truly, of God’s creations, humans are able to reflect Him more than anything else. Of course, we are well aware and honestly admit humans are not the perfect image of God.
As a wise person once put it, “There is enough good in everyone to show that we are made in God’s image and also enough sinfulness and selfishness to show that we are only an image.”
How easy it is to see and focus on the evil in those around us — stories of crime and violence fill the daily newscasts. Even our military families are not immune from the pain and upheaval caused by family members’ destructive behaviors or wrong choices.
One can train oneself to look for the good in others, even beneath the evil that gets so much attention or publicity.
Most of us have heard the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who lived in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II. She was forced to live in hiding for a number of years because she was Jewish. She was aware her relatives and friends had been arrested and shipped off to the concentration camps by the Nazis. She kept a personal diary, while living in fear in the attic of a Dutch family, through most of the war years.
As one might expect, her diary would contain a lot of hatred for the Nazis who were the cause of her suffering and misery.
Instead she wrote, “In spite of everything, I still think that people are good at heart.” If we can echo and say what Anne Frank wrote, we can begin to see God’s image in others.
So, no, we will never see God during our earthly existence. To see Him face-to-face, we have to wait. This is the best reason why we should appreciate the images of God that our neighbors present to us.
For all we know, that may be the closest we ever get to seeing God in this life.