I watched a movie recently, a Sci-Fi thriller exploring the concepts of time travel and paradoxes. It was a masterful script and a movie that never saw any notoriety, sadly enough. But being a bit too cerebral at times, I couldn’t help but continue the mental exploration of paradoxes. A paradox isn’t a word we use every day, so at its most simple, it means an apparent self-contradictory statement or proposition, yet one that makes total sense. A common expression we use to explain a paradox is this, that “you have to spend money to make money”. It’s an apparently contradictory statement that makes sense to us. We “get” it.
Then I started thinking about things spiritually. About spiritual paradoxes, or at least apparent ones, and it lead me to the title of this new blog post.
Should we forgive God?
A few years ago I remember reading an article published online by a Christian website that explored this idea, so I’m not the first person to offer it up for scrutiny. And the “religious” crowd is unable to entertain this fascinating concept. “God is perfect”, they argue, “therefore there is nothing to forgive”.
I agree 100% that God is perfect in all His ways. I disagree with the second statement. While God Himself, in His triune splendor, is absolutely perfect and holy and just, His creation, mankind, is not. We are flawed, broken, degenerate, often hopeless, lost and aimless. We are far from spiritual perfection.
How does this tie in to the subject at hand?
God is perfect. Omniscient. Omnipresent. Omnipotent. No beginning nor end. Fully good, the veritable definition of love.
If God is perfect and does no wrong, why would I talk about forgiving Him?
I am not perfect. I have limited sight, limited control, a finite lifespan, and incapable of selfless love apart from Jesus.
See, God works in the eternal, outside of the tight confines of our rigid, time-locked lives. He operates from a perspective of total and complete understanding of every individual thing that happens on the spectrum of time because He created time itself and exists independently of it. This means that this most masterful Weaver is constantly weaving a more and more intricate story for our lives, working things out within time, behind the scenes of our lives where we cannot see or grasp, but can only lay hold onto faith and trust.
There are times in all of our lives when God acts in ways that are unbecoming, according to our human thought processes.
- When the sick child dies after much prayer, is God good?
- When the marriage falls apart after years of struggling to hold it together, where is God?
- When a people group commits genocide against their own people in the name of their deity, why does the real God not act?
- When all that we value is crumbling around us and we are powerless to stop it, powerless to prevent it, powerless to escape, and our prayers bounce off of the glass ceiling of heaven… how can we trust that God is good?
As I said, God functions by His own perfect understanding of a situation, with all of the context that eternity provides, and all of the power required to affect any change or decision that He wills. And God is fully good, the veritable definition of love.
Most of us would acknowledge that, however most of us also bear grudges against Him. Most of us have hidden hurts we attribute to His failure, or His capriciousness. Most of us, if we strip the veil of hypocrisy back and look at the bleeding soul, will find that we have been hurt, damaged, broken, as we see it, by this perfect God.
And hurt hurts. It causes bitterness. The “where were You, God”, and the “why didn’t You answer?” questions can become cancerous in our spirits. We lose faith in the efficacy of prayer, we lose hope in a God of restoration, we become embittered and frustrated and angry. “Yes, God is good”, we say, “but He was not good to ME when He allowed… [Fill in your own hurt].”
Beloved, there are times in all of our lives where we are hurt on the altar of divine love. Where our frail understanding of this world we exist in is broken, where we see things as out of control or irredeemable because of God. Times when we see Him as at fault. Times when His apparent inactivity allowed our crushing defeat, His absence meant our loss, His silence, our brokenness.
We can quote the “good Christian’s guide to looking good on the outside”, chapter 2 and put on a facade, and say all of the right spiritual things and pretend that the hurts aren’t there, glory to God and pass the salt. But we need to be honest, open and vulnerable. The hurts remain, a gaping, oozing open wound that grows more infected, day after unanswered-prayer day.
Should we forgive God?
I think for many of us, we do. We believe that God operates out of total love, in total command of all of creation. When asked directly, we answer directly: God is good, Jesus loves me, this I know. And we believe it… until we think of THAT ONE THING, and then the anger returns, the doubt, frustration, angst, emptiness, sadness. Then God’s motives are suspect, His power is questionable, His love for me is unproven.
The Christian circles talk a lot about asking God for forgiveness. They never talk about forgiving God. That’s just not the holy thing to do. But we are not the holy crowd. We are the broken, battered, wounded soldiers of the Cross, bleeding and bruised from a thousand skirmishes, clawing our way ever closer to our eternal home, fighting in the name of the Lamb. We don’t have time for religious trivialities. We need the real, and we need it now.
What hurts are you bearing? What cancerous lesions are festering inside of you? Where has God failed you, hurt you or allowed you to hurt? Where has He failed to be God in your opinion?
Those are the areas you need to forgive Him for. Those are the places you need to acknowledge exist, and see them for what they are, talk to the Father about them, air out the dirty laundry and remove the elephants in the room. Tell Him of your anger, fear, resentment, hurt. He has strong shoulders, He will listen without judgement. Pour it out, excise the tumor, rid yourself of the bile. It’s important to face this head on, to be open about your hurt, acknowledge it for what it is. God is not shocked, and you aren’t either. You live with it every day.
Forgiveness does not require an action from the person being forgiven. Forgiveness requires a decision from the person who has been hurt. A decision to acknowledge the hurt, and then a decision to forgive the offender, to put it behind you and move on. We need to do this for our own spiritual health. We will never understand why God behaves as He does, at least not this side of eternity. He will continue to act in ways that we cannot understand, taking paths we cannot follow, for reasons we cannot fathom. Yet He is completely good and is “work[ing] all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Identify the hurt, pour it out to God, recognize that you can’t always understand His ways, and then choose to forgive and move on, as a form of worship. He is worthy, even when it hurts us and even when we cannot understand. He is worthy. He understands more pain that we ever can fathom. Our hurts matter to Him, and He is working for our good. Forgive. Release the bitterness. Open your hand and let it blow away. It is the highest form of honor to worship God while suffering, and our highest calling to suffer in the name of Jesus.
You can do this. Today is your day. Be free, finally, be free. Jesus loves you. He is working for your good in the hurts and in the joys. He is worthy of your trust and worship. Forgive, start over, move on in the Lord. One day it will all make sense, and you will have no regrets over this decision. Choosing worship over anger will always return to you a hundredfold blessing.
Would love your thoughts in the comments below.