Today, we finish up our short three-part email-only series on the topic of forgiveness. Hopefully you've caught the first two entries in the series. (If not, you can catch up on the Riverwood website.) We've talked about forgiving others, as well as forgiving yourself. But today, I want to finish things up by talking about forgiving someone we rarely think of forgiving - and that's God Himself.
I suspect you might want to push back at me for a moment. Because forgiveness usually comes as a result of someone doing something wrong against you. But God, we theologically know, can't do anything wrong. Everything He does is good.
But if we are honest with ourselves, our feelings sometimes betray our theology. We may know intellectually God is good, but sometimes our emotional reaction to a horrendous experience can lead us to believe He isn't good.
That's exactly what happened to Job.
God has Wronged Me
Job's story is told in the Old Testament book that bears His name. Early in the book, we learn that Satan approaches God and asks for permission to ruin Job's life. Satan ends up killing most of Job's family, most of his servants, and taking all of his wealth. In other words, Job lost everything. (Talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.)
Initially, Job responded amazingly well. But eventually, as he thought more about the situation (thanks to some "friends" that came to "comfort" him), Job felt God was to blame for his devastating loss. Which is why he cried out...
"...God has wronged me and has closed His net around me!" (Job 19:6 - NASB)
Job was mad. He was emotionally hurt. He was in deep mourning. And in his pain, he couldn't understand why God would let all of his kids die, most of his servants die, and all of his wealth be taken from him. (And on top of it all, his wife left him.) So Job blamed God for doing "wrong."
Ever felt like Job did in that moment? Ever felt like "God has wronged you" and royally screwed you over?
If you have, you're in good company.
How to "Forgive" God
So what should you do if God has "wronged" you. I think you need to do two things.
But before I share them with you, please hear this: The two ideas I am going to give you are not to sound trite or shallow. The hurt, pain, and anger you might feel won't instantly disappear if you just do these two things. These two things aren't like a magic incantation that will make your pain vanish instantly. It might take some times to truly come to a place where you can forgive God. But as your pastor, I long for you to have a deep abiding spiritual connection with your Creator, fully trusting Him with every area of your life.
So what are the two things I advise you to do?
1. Re-Understand "Good"
Each of us have an idea of the definition of "good."
But, if you are a parent, when you discipline your child, your little one does not think your correction is "good." She will probably get mad at you for not letting her eat a 36th piece of candy, or he will howl when you won't let him watch a fourth episode of Paw Patrol. But the reason you are correcting your child is because you are trying to do what is truly good for them. They may not understand it, but with your greater wisdom and insight, you do.
Likewise, when we face horrible situations, even evil ones like rape or murder, we need to realize that while God did not make the evil happen, He can still work it out for good. He has far greater wisdom and insight than us. He sees to the end of time, knowing how all things will work together. This is why we can say nothing happens outside of His control.
And so we need to allow our definition of "good" to change. Even when our circumstances aren't "good," He still is. And when our definition begins to change, we can do the second thing:
2. Worship God
How do you know you have truly forgiven a fellow human? When you can walk into a room, see the other person, and not internally recoil. Likewise, you know you have forgiven God when you can truly worship Him.
But sometimes, you have to seek God before you feel ready to "forgive" Him.
As you read the Psalms, you see David do this all the time. In Psalm 22 (which I linked to above), right after David accuses God of doing wrong, he immediately begins to worship God. Notice what he says:
"Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed." (Psalm 22:3-5)
I don't think David fully understood why God was letting certain things happen to him as he penned this psalm, yet he didn't wait until everything was right again to worship God. It seems as if David was reminding himself, "You know, my ancestors went through some tough things like slavery in Egypt, being trapped against the Red Sea, and wandering in the dessert for 40 years, yet God led them through each thing. So just as my ancestors didn't understand why God was working in those ways, I don't understand what He is doing right now. But I guess if they could end up trusting Him to deliver them, I can trust He really is good and will deliver me as well."
It seems to me that David allowed worship to recalibrate his heart so he could see that God was still good, even if he mistakenly believed God had wronged him.
Ultimately, forgiveness of God comes down to trust. Do you trust that God is good, in control, deeply loves you, and is with you through the struggle? If not, you will find forgiveness of God nearly impossible to attain. But when you look at the cross, and see what God has done to release you from your sin, you can know He truly is good and can be fully trusted, even when you have gone through hell on earth.
If you are struggling to forgive God, feel free to reach out to me or to another Jesus-follower who you know will listen to you and encourage you. Sometimes just sitting and talking about these things begins to remind you that God loves you. And as you remember, you'll find yourself "forgiving" Him.
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