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Seasons of hiddenness

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Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo


Have you ever felt hidden, overlooked in plain sight, almost concealed from the world? Doubtless, we’ve all had those seasons where we’ve felt, no matter how hard we grind, how much we struggle, how mental our hustle is, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. In fact, it feels like pushing water uphill. Our blessings and breakthroughs are just not forthcoming. In fact, it seems like everyone else is moving ahead, leaving us behind, desperately claiming our portion or promotion.

Recently speaking with a colleague, she shared her struggles where she felt she’d been forsaken, all doors closed, all roads blocked, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. From there, she talked of learning about the gift of hiddenness. Initially, it just didn’t make sense… ‘Unless you’re in warfare, how can hiddenness be a gift?’ I mused. She shared the words of American pastor Joel Osteen from Seasons of Silence:

“Do you know that God loves you so much that at times He’ll hide you? He’ll cause you to be overlooked. He’ll cause doors to shut. He’ll cause a promotion to go to your coworker. You can be talented and hidden, anointed and hidden, have great ideas and hidden. If you don’t understand that it’s God hiding you, you’ll be frustrated and try to make things happen on your own. Before you see acclaim, you’ll go through a season of obscurity. You have to pass the test when you’re being hidden.

We all have times when we’re praying, but our prayers aren’t being answered. We’re being our best, but not getting good breaks, the problem is not turning around. It seems as though God is on vacation. But the silence is not a sign that God is not working. He may not be changing the circumstances, but He is changing us. God uses the seasons of silence to get us prepared. Your character is being developed. You’re gaining experience, maturity and strength that you’ll need for where God is taking you.”

Now I realise not everyone believes in God or even a spiritual power that governs our life. However, whatever we choose to believe in, we would have all had instances of looking back on times where nothing made sense, there was no portion, no promotion, no protection – seemingly – doors closed, friends far away, where we’ve all felt like life couldn’t get any worse.

When she talked about those moments in her life, I instantly remembered my seasons of silence and struggle where I felt bereft and abandoned. It was then I also realised that looking back on that very season, while it wasn’t clear then, it was clear later that it was preparing me for the next one. All the agony of the season of silence and the struggles were either building my resilience or giving me the experience that I needed for the next chapter of the story.

That’s what’s funny about these seasons of struggle – in the thick of it one is so busy fighting the daily battles to make sense of it, but as life unfolds and the journey takes us through roads to where we are today, we look back and suddenly it all makes sense. It’s almost as if a light is switched on, or a new realisation dawns and we see why we had to endure what we had to when we had to and how it has led through one path on to another and on to where we are now, much stronger, wiser and no longer concealed.

This also reminded me of my mum’s constant prayer, “If it’s not well, let it not happen.” Even when it’s something you’d think is a positive – like a new house, or a promotion at work or even something as simple as a holiday, my mum would rather pray that it happens only if it will be a positive experience.

Over the years, I too have come to accept this philosophy, so much so that, I’ve updated the adage, “If it’s not open, it’s not your door” as “If it’s not open, it’s not your door; and if it’s locked shut, maybe there’s very good reason that it is.” Or in singer Mandy Hale’s words, “Realise that if a door closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.”

To skeptics this may sound like naïve fatalism, and maybe it is. In my twenties before I’d really begun living, I thought so too. I think it only takes a life fully, adventurously lived to get to a point you can look back and make sense of it all: the chaos, the drama, the roads blocked, the doors locked, the hand fate dealt and took away. For this lesson and all the gift of hiddenness, I am grateful.


In this article:
Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
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