There is a good chance that this little gem of a book is appearing on your screen right now (unless of course you're reading this on your phone) - much bigger than it is in real life. It's smaller than your tablet and lighter than your phone. This is book one of Graham Cooke's Being With God Interactive Journal Series. There are 8 books in the Being with God series - you can get them individually or as a set here - there are a few other journals as well. I was introduced to this series 5 years ago by a friend who's been following Graham Cooke's work and ministry for nearly 20 years.
The Hiddenness & Manifestation journal is the first one in the series I read - and the one that impressed me the most at time - as I was going through a season of hiddenness myself. The journal starts with Cooke recounting a coffee-shop conversation between himself and another believer that revolved around the question: "What do you do when God is far away and you can't feel His presence?" Graham is English - and doesn't record in his journal the name of the man he met with that day - and calls him "whatshisname" - but what follows is a very different take on the "God is silent" conversation - which I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you have also at some point or another been or known someone who's been ready for a different way to think about and live through such seasons. Graham says "once you understand [these seasons] you will enjoy a sense of freedom".
If you've been a Christ follower for very long at all - you understand the experience of coming home from a retreat, a camp, a trip with encouraging friends, a music festival - and you're on cloud nine. It's you and Jesus - and together you can do anything. Move any mountain - walk on water ... the whole thing. These are sweet feelings. You feel God's presence - you feel the Spirit stirring in your soul - these times are what Cooke calls "Manifestation". Everyone's on board with these times. We love 'em. We love them so much we can fall into a trap of trying to recreate them ... we'll play just the right music, cozy up with this Bible and that book by that godly teacher - and ... shazam! Well ... except when "it doesn't work"
Then there are those other times ... when life is hard, friends are few - and not very encouraging, and God seems far away. These times are hard on us - but I do believe that they're harder on us than they have to be - because the expectation, frustration, guilt, and comparison etc. aren't inherantly part of these times - they're what it's too easy for us to bring to them.
Cooke refers to these seasons as "blessing" and "building." We can also think of them as seasons of sowing and reaping. Like new buildings and freshly planted seeds - there's some hard work to be done when it comes to breaking through the soil, toiling in the dark - on all those critical parts of our walks that aren't glittering up in the sun - but rather pushing down through soils of all types to tap into all God's providing for our growth. Hiddennes is an entirely different prospect when its embraced as that which leads to growth - deeper, stronger foundations - which are essential for reaching up higher - and ministering more. Hiddenness, says Cooke - connects us to God's wisdom - and that the most gems of God's wisdom are the ones most hidden. Hiddenness is the season in which we process God's truth - and find space to meditate on that truth in such a way that we don't just grow older, hear a few more sermons, and spew a few more platitudes; hiddenness is where the rubber meets the road so to speak - the season where transformation takes place. We feel ourselves being shaken by the hand of God.
Hiddenness is NOT the same as consequence from sin. Surely we can through a monkey-wrench in the works of our walk with God by treating others to the "left-boot of fellowship" as it was called where I grew up, or by engaging in poor work-habits, or ignoring growing our walk with God. But if you in the best light of God's truth speaking to you cannot identify a "why" - or put differently - a sense of conviction regarding what led to this season, and your most trusted encouragers can't illuminate anything - then you might be entering a season of hiddenness. That's awesome! It's a blessing many don't every accept but begrudgingly. It's crucial to not resist these seasons, or sugar-coat them in inauthentic terms about how them ... it's in these seasons - when we cry out to God - that God can mold us - and in His molding - encourage the body to dig in deeper too - to not just submit to these seasons - but to surrender to them - in this way - we tell God - right from our heads and straight down to our hearts that we're eager to grow - hungry for growth - and understand that growth doesn't come in an avalanche of unicorns and rainbows. God's growth comes with humility, repentence, and waiting upon Him. In fact - in my seasons of hiddenness I frequently feel the way I do when I'm navigating someplace I've never been before - and the directions seem vague - the GPS is clueless ... I turn the radio volume down, stop chit-chatting on the phone ... I focus on following every clue that will point to the destination.
Manifestation on the other hand is the season in which we enjoy the blessing of the fruits of the seasons of hiddenness. Manifestation isn't a reward for being perfect as much as it's the pause between gulps of cool refreshing water on a hot day - or the sound night of sleep in the middle of a season of physically demanding work.
It's all too easy for us to praise the seasons of Manifestation - they look like great advertising after all - right? When in those seasons - it's so easy to feel "I've arrived" - sadly way too easy. And it's too easy to feel "I blew it!" in the seasons of hiddenness. But it's these hiddenness seasons that connect us so deeply and meaningfully to God - training our ears and hearts to hear His Spirit so much more - and teaching our souls to cling to Him like never before.
Cooke's little book on Hiddenness and Manifestation - packs a punch that belies it's small size and 60 pages. Cooke wastes no time at revealing his struggles, real encouragement - plenty of scripture references
I am grateful for every single one of you who has willingly submitted to the work of Hiddenness - your faithfulness to plunge into the unknown in pursuit of Him Who Knows All Things - speaks more powerfully of real courage and real hope to my spirit than all the promises of an easy path. It's the faithfulness in seasons of hiddenness that inspires us to seek growth, depth, and transformation. As Cooke says, "When we become comfortable with the ways of God in hiddenness we will find ourselves going further in the realm of the Spirit than ever before." Let us all seek to surrender more to God's seasons of hiddenness so His craftsmanship in us can come more and more to light - and enjoy an unprecedented closeness with Him.