It might seem absurd to think of forgiving God. Forgiveness, in our minds, often involves forgiving someone for doing something wrong. God is perfect and will never do anything wrong. So, why would we need to forgive God?
Years ago, I had to ask someone to forgive me. I had actually done nothing wrong, but through misunderstanding, someone was hurt by what they thought I had done to them. When I talked to them, I assured them I meant no ill from what I had done, but asked them to forgive me anyway for the unintentional hurt in their life and the responsibility they thought I had in that.
Forgiveness often means the one forgiven has wronged someone and needs forgiven for hurting others. But in God’s case, He has done nothing wrong, yet very often people get angry with God over something that they perceive as unfair, mean, or uncaring. “Why did God take my loved one?” “Why is God allowing suffering when He could merely snap His fingers and make it go away?” Why? We have a lot of unanswered “why” questions in our life.
In the recent movie and preceding book, “The Shack,” the storyline deals with the tough questions of “Why?” and “Where were you, God, when … “ And it also deals with forgiveness of the main character’s father and even God. In the main character’s life, as a dad, the main character questioned God as to why his daughter was kidnapped and murdered. Where was God and why didn’t he protect her? The rest of the story explores that struggle in his life to find God’s love once again.
Though God is perfect in every way and we fall so very far short of understanding His ways, our perception of God’s work is that He doesn’t work how we think He should work. Therefore, what God has done at times doesn’t seem right. We were deeply hurt by what happened and we blame God that either He caused it to happen or that He allowed it to happen. For us, neither option is acceptable. Therefore, the need arises for us to forgive God. Forgiveness comes in the sense that we no longer hold bitterness, anger, resentment, blame, etc. against God for those terrible things that have happened in our lives. We exchange our anger toward God for trust and faith.
Years ago, I went through a very trying time. I prayed and prayed, seeking God’s solution, but whether I missed His answer or it never came, I don’t know, even to this day. But I became angry inside, resentment buried in my soul, at the people I blamed for the hurt – and even angry at God for not fixing it; and for the seemingly unfair and needless stress it brought into my life. I knew I had to forgive the people I blamed. That was a challenge, but in faith, I chose to forgive them and still do. Then God helped me understand I needed to forgive Him too. In other words, I needed to let God off the hook for what I perceived as His neglect, as well being responsible for the hurt and stress during those years. And, in forgiving God I found peace in my soul. I stopped blaming God. I stopped being angry and resentful at God and I accepted that God never lost control or lost His sovereignty in that situation. I accepted that God was at work (and still is), though I could not see it at the time, bringing good out of a bad situation. I accepted that God had a higher understanding and purpose for all that took place. And the hardest part, I accepted that I don’t have to have an answer to all the “why?” questions. I accept, by faith, that God knows the why and I have entrusted that into His hands.
The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 55, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God for He will freely pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than yours and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
The passage goes on to explain that God is at work in ways we don’t always see or understand, but always has a purpose greater when our ability to understand. That is where living by faith comes in. This is what the disciples of Jesus learned when they watched Jesus be crucified and were confused and full of fear. By faith they had to surrender their whys and trust God that God knows and has a purpose in Jesus’ death.
By faith, I also needed to forgive God and let Him off the hook of blame and anger, and entrust the hurt and pain of the past to His care. Bad things happened; it was what it was. I can’t change the past, but I can live in the present and prepare for the future, entrusting my present and future to God and to His everlasting and ever-enduring love for me. In the pain of suffering, the disciples discovered resurrection and salvation. In our pain and suffering, we will discover God’s resurrection power to turn our sorrow into joy.
• Dan Wiese is the pastor at the Church of the Nazarene.