I’m not sure why it’s always at bedtime that my kids ask me the hardest questions. Perhaps it’s because that’s when we finally slow down long enough for them to feel like it’s a good time to talk. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for these God orchestrated encounters, and I just pray that God gives me daily awareness so I don’t rush through them.
One evening after Bible reading and prayer, my son asked yet another good kid question: “Dad, how come I can’t see God?”
Young children think in such concrete terms, and so we need God’s wisdom to give them clear answers to their hard questions. In this case, I had recently read what I thought was a really good answer written by J. P. Moreland.
You can’t really see me
I responded: “Well, it’s true that we can’t see God, even though we know he’s here with us right now. But the fact is that you don’t really see me either.”
That got his attention. He responded, “But I do see you dad, you’re right here.”
I explained: “Well, you see my body, and I’m here inside my body, but what makes me really me is something you can’t see. After all, if you cut off my arm or my leg, I wouldn’t stop being me would I? And that’s because the Bible teaches us that while God gave us bodies, he also gave us a spirit. And our spirit is that part of us that lives forever and makes us who we really are. But you can’t see a spirit, they’re invisible.”
At that point, I turned his attention on himself to make the idea personal for him. I pointed at his chest and told him that I knew that he was here inside his body too, but that there wasn’t any one part of his body I could point to and say: “This is what makes you you”. After all, our bodies will die and return to the dust (Genesis 3:19), but we live on forever because we are “spiritual” beings.
God is a spirit
Well, we are spiritual because God made us to be like him. Jesus taught us that “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and as a spirit, God too is invisible.
But unlike us, while our spirits are limited and can only be in the same place as our bodies, God is unlimited and so his spirit is everywhere at all times. Just as God himself says, “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24; see also Psalm 139:7-10).
So, because God is a spirit that is everywhere at the same time, he’s too big to fit into a body. (We’ll leave aside the matter of the incarnation of Jesus for the time being.) As God, he’s everywhere, and so can’t be limited to something we can see or point to. So, while he’s everywhere, as a spirit he’s invisible.
Making it real
At this point, I realized I had maxed out my time and expectation for what my son could absorb and grasp. There’s only so much explaining I can do, and then I need to let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.
So, I ended by bringing his mind back to knowing that God was with him even though he couldn’t see him.
I said, “Now, even though God is everywhere and we can’t see him, Jesus has told us that God has made a special home for his Spirit to live in on earth, and do you remember where that is?” (I pointed to his chest as I asked him the question).
He replied, “Inside my heart.”
“Right”, I said.
“And that’s how we can really know that God is with us, even though we can’t see him.”
And this is where we as parents need to work hard to make sure we always bring our teaching back to depending upon the Holy Spirit to make God’s truth real to our kids.
As the Apostle John wrote: “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). It’s true for me and true for my kids.
So I finished by praying with my son and asking God to help him know that he was right here with him, even though he couldn’t see him.
I continually pray that God would apply his power to my feeble efforts to teach my children. I want to do my best to apply true knowledge from the Bible to their good questions. For that, I need to train my own mind and make myself a good student of God’s Word.
In the end, however, I want that knowledge to translate into living experience with God, and for that I must continually trust the Holy Spirit to make the knowledge of himself real to me and my children. And praise God we can trust him to do that very thing! ◼︎
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Originally published Jul 7, 2014, updated Aug 24, 2021.