One of the things I love about those who have not yet reached “maturity” is the uncanny courage to say exactly what the rest of us mean but are too afraid to say ourselves.
On the last night of Switch Camp, students were invited to come up front and share their stories from the week. One middle schooler told us that his favorite cousin died in a car wreck a few months earlier, and that week he realized he was holding a grudge against God because of it. The way he expressed this was beautiful: “Last night, I finally forgave God for taking away my cousin.”
As adults it’s easy to hide our feelings behind our theology. I love this student’s honesty. What adult would stand up in front of a group of people and say, “I finally forgave God”?
But when we kneel to His sovereignty, that’s really what we are doing isn’t it?
The truth is, so often in my life I have held a grudge against God, because things haven’t gone the way I, in my sovereign knowledge, think they should have gone.
Typically I don’t like to take a break to reference a dictionary, but I needed to see if “forgiving God” is actually a valid way to express this phenomenon.
The American Psychological Association defines forgiveness as “the process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender… This process results in decreased motivation to retaliate or maintain estrangement from an offender despite their actions, and requires letting go of negative emotions toward the offender.”
When God allows something to happen that offends our sensibilities, I suppose it would be accurate to call Him “the offender.” Obviously, as mature adults with good theology, we know that God is holy and incapable of wrong-doing… but step outside of that for a moment.
Be honest. When your life doesn’t look the way you thought it would look, the way you think it should look, is your response to hold God responsible? That’s usually my first reaction.
When you’re single long after you hoped you’d be? When someone dies unexpectedly? When the dreams you thought God had given you end in failure?
When I am disappointed with God, often my reaction is to embrace sin and lash out against Him. “I thought you promised good things God! And look where that got me! Maybe the world has something better to offer.”
Obviously, we need to ask God to forgive us. But now I’m beginning to think we need to forgive God as well.
Forgiving God is the acknowledgement that He is good and that you believe He has good plans for you. It is the willful change of emotion and attitude towards God in this place where you feel hurt by Him. It is the resolution to stop running away from Him because you are upset with Him. Most of all, it is the letting go of negative emotions towards God.
I realize of course, that most people won’t be comfortable using this language, because we don’t want to give the impression that God needs us to forgive Him. But really, isn’t forgiveness about a change in attitude towards the person you are forgiving?
As for me, I’m going to take the lead of one courageous middle schooler.
God, you know things haven’t worked out quite the way I expected, and there have been times I’ve held that against You. Please forgive me for my sins, for running from You when You are the only one who can save me. I forgive you God. I release the negative emotions I’ve held towards you. I run to you. Take these bones you have broken and make them dance.