Piaget’s theory of object permanence describes a child’s ability to recognise that objects continue to exist even when they are not in sight. Babies do not initially understand that what they cannot see still exists: for them, seeing really is believing, and therefore in the minds of young babies, the world only consists of what they can see in front of them at any given moment. It’s why a baby can seem in distress if he cannot see a person or toy.
Most babies move to the recognition that something or someone is still there even if they cannot see the object at around nine months. That’s when the game of hiding an object and playing ‘peek-a-boo!‘ can become so popular, eliciting giggles and anticipation rather than distress.
Sadly, it takes adults much longer usually to apply this concept to the spiritual realm. So often, if we do not see or feel God’s presence, we fret that He has abandoned or forsaken us. If He is not answering our prayers favourably and immediately, we assume He is no longer there. If life is difficult and full of trials, we believe that God has walked out on us.
When we play the game of ‘Hide And Seek’ with children, they are notoriously bad at hiding, often hiding in plain view (‘my eyes are closed, so you can’t see where I am, Grandma!’) Isaiah 45:15 talks of the God who hides Himself, and He can do this far better than a child! There are periods in life when God is not in plain view. Do we, at those times, assume He has walked out on us, abandoned us, forsaken us, left us alone and defenceless? Are we like babies who have no concept of object permanence? Or do we learn to trust He is there, even when we cannot see Him, even when our feelings tell us one thing but the facts tell us another?
Psalm 22 starts with feelings of forsakenness. God seems a long way away to David. But he balances these feelings with the truth he knows from Israel’s history and learns to both pour out his feelings to God and walk in trust adn faith, ultimately moving to a place of confidence in God’s future deliverance because of what He has done in the past.
‘Believing is seeing’ is the order of life in the spiritual realm. Growing up means understanding an object doesn’t vanish just because we can’t see it at this precise moment. Neither does God.