Summary: How do we forgive God when we are hurt or disappointed?
What do we do when something bad happens to us, and there’s no one to forgive? What do we do when the only person we can hold responsible is God Himself? How can we forgive God?
What does it mean to forgive God?
Before we answer that question, let’s make clear what we mean by "forgiving" God. Forgiving God is not the same as forgiving other people, for one main reason. While other people may hurt us because of sin or malevolence, God is always good. He always does what is just and right. There is no possibility of His acting out of a corrupt or impure motive. So even when we are genuinely injured, we can’t accuse God of wrongdoing.
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." - 1 John 1:15 (NIV)
"The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." - Psalm 92:15 (NIV)
So when we talk about forgiving God, we’re not talking about standing in judgment of God and accusing Him of wrongdoing, accusing Him of sinning against us. But there are times when we still need to forgive God.
Forgiveness really isn’t about the other person -- whether their actions were right or wrong, just or unjust. Forgiveness has to do with how we deal with the anger, resentment, and bitterness that we experience when we get hurt.
Now, the fact that God is never in the wrong can actually make it harder to forgive Him. Sometimes we can minimize an offense by convincing ourselves that they were only doing what comes naturally - sinning. In other words, what do you expect from a sinner, but sin? But this option is not available when we are dealing with God.
It’s difficult to forgive someone else when you think that your reaction is unjustified. When you know, or suspect, that the other person really meant you no harm, that they were in the right, and yet you still feel hurt and angry, it can be very difficult to forgive. Because in order to forgive, we may have to admit that we were in the wrong. Sometimes it’s easier to forgive someone else their sin than to confront our own sin and guilt. We would rather play the wronged martyr.
That’s what makes it difficult to forgive God. We know that God isn’t in the wrong. And we sense that if we try to deal with our feelings of hurt and anger, we will find that we are the ones in the wrong. And so we just push our feelings deep inside and try to ignore them.
Is God Responsible?
So how do people deal with the hurts and offenses that come from God’s hands? One way is to deny that they come from God at all. This is the approach taken in the book, "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People." God can’t be blamed, because He’s not in control. He’s not responsible. Although God loves us, He isn’t able to protect us.
But this approach runs into some serious problems. First of all, if God isn’t powerful enough to protect us, how can we place our trust in Him? How can we rely on Him? If He can’t take care of us in this world, how do we know He’ll do any better in the next one? How do we know that He will be able to defeat sin and death? If He can’t keep us from dying, how do we know He can raise us from the dead?
If God isn’t in control, how can we trust in His promises? In an attempt to absolve God of responsibility, this approach also strips Him of His power.
But the more serious problem with this approach is that it contradicts the Scriptures. God is sovereign over the earth and all of its inhabitants.
"The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth."
-- Psalm 135:6 (NIV)
Not only is the Lord sovereign in a general sense, He is also sovereign over calamity and disaster.
"The LORD said to him, ’Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’" -- Exodus 4:11 (NIV)
"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." - Isaiah 45:7 (NIV)
When we are coming to terms with our suffering, we can’t take the easy way out. We can’t excuse it on the grounds that God isn’t responsible for what happens.
So, how do we forgive God?
1. Don’t demand an explanation
In order to come to terms with our suffering, we have to recognize that God doesn’t always explain Himself. And if He did, we probably couldn’t understand it. If we demand an explanation before we forgive, we will be disappointed. And even if we think we’ve figured out "why," we’ve probably got it wrong.