That title is not a misprint. I’m guessing that you’ve heard a lot of preaching about God forgiving you. For that matter, you’ve probably also heard a lot about you forgiving others. But when was the last time you heard anything about you forgiving God? “Never,” you say? Then pull up a chair and let’s talk about it.
Maybe a spouse died. Maybe a child died. Maybe a test result came back bad. Maybe a surgery didn’t produce the desired results. Maybe a marriage never happened. Maybe one ended in divorce. Maybe a job was lost. Maybe a business went bust. Maybe a terrible injustice occurred. Maybe a dream turned into a nightmare. Whatever it was that happened (or didn’t happen) to you, all you know is that you prayed your guts out for God to come through for you but He came up small, very small. At least that’s your assessment of what happened.
And you’ve heard the well-intentioned advice of family, friends, and colleagues. “You need to get over this.” “You have to move on with your life.” “You’ve dwelt on this long enough.” “It’s time to let this go.” For your part, though, such words fall upon deaf ears. Why? Well, may I suggest that you just flat out aren’t ready to move on? And may I further suggest that you and your situation have unfinished business, some of which involves you forgiving the God whom you think failed you?
If you do feel disappointment or anger toward God, the chances are that you’ve expressed it by attempting to get back at Him. Basically, you’ve tried to hurt Him the way you believe He has hurt you. Such attempts at revenge usually take the form of quitting church, failing to pray, letting dust collect on your Bible, purposefully engaging in some sin, or any and all of the above. These things (and some others I didn’t list) are your way of saying to God, “Hey, if You didn’t care about doing what I wanted You to do for me, why should I care about doing what You want me to do for You?”
One of the great problems with the thousands of “Christianity lite”, “health-and-wealth,” “prosperity,” “self help” sermons that pass for preaching these days is that they only convey one side of God’s nature. These sermons tell you over and over that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that you can ask or think. They tell you that He is an all-powerful God who never met a problem that He couldn’t fix. They tell you that your miracle is on its way. What they don’t tell you is that God being able to do something doesn’t mean that He’ll do it, and Him having the power to fix a problem doesn’t always translate to Him fixing it. And as for your miracle being on its way, well, let’s just say that some miracles evidently get lost in the mail.
I’m talking now to the person, even the Christian, who had faith that God was going to save your day, only to discover that He opted not to do it. Mary and Martha received their miracle when Lazarus was resurrected, but you didn’t get yours. Jesus walked on the water to keep the chosen 12’s boat from sinking, but you rode yours all the way down to the bottom. David felled his Goliath, but your Goliath body slammed you, put his foot in the middle of your chest, raised his sword in victory over you, and has been enjoying the accolades ever since.
I truly believe that God has you reading this right now because He doesn’t want you to abort the work He is doing inside you in the aftermath of your traumatic event. While He’s not asking you to put on a fake smile and act like nothing happened to you, He does want you to stick with Him. Rather than burying your disappointment/anger toward Him and cutting off all communications, He wants you to acknowledge that disappointment/anger and convey your emotions to Him by way of prayer. His offer to you is, “Let’s talk about what you are feeling toward Me, and in so doing begin the process of bringing you out the other end of it.
Of course, it’s along about here that someone might say, “But who are we to second-guess God? He is the Creator and we are mere dust. He doesn’t have to explain Himself to us. And since He cannot sin, He never makes a mistake and therefore never needs to be forgiven.”
My comeback to that is that it’s possible for a person (or God) to disappoint someone or anger someone without actually committing a sin or making a mistake. You see, the disappointment or anger occurs within the mind of the person who considers himself or herself the victim. So, even as God remains authentically innocent of any charges the person might level toward Him, He is gracious enough not to take offense at the charges. Even more than not take offense at them, He’s loving enough to actually come to the person and say, “Let me help you take what you’re feeling and weave into a deeper experience with Me than you’ve ever had.”
Actually, the Bible provides us with numerous examples of people who became disappointed/angry with God. Here are a few names from that list:
- After patiently waiting for years for God to give him and his wife Sarah a child, Abraham finally expressed the disappointment/anger he was feeling toward God about the delay. (Genesis 15:1-3)
- After Moses had been leading the Israelites for a while, there came a time when he expressed his disappointment/anger toward God because of all the problems that were associated with leading such a group. He even told God, “If you are going to keep treating me like this, please kill me now.” (Numbers 11:10-15)
- David got mad at God for striking Uzzah dead when Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant as it was being transported to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:1-8)
- Jonah got mad at God for sparing the citizens of Nineveh. As a matter of fact, he got so mad that he asked God to kill him. (Jonah 3:10;4:1-4)
- Jeremiah once reached an emotional low point in his ministry and expressed his disappointment/anger toward God by asking Him, “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:18)
- John the Baptist became disappointed that Jesus hadn’t ushered in the glorious Messianic Age for Israel yet and even openly questioned whether or not Jesus truly was the Messiah. (Matthew 11:1-3)
- When Jesus first told the chosen 12 that He was going to Jerusalem in order to be put to death there, Peter took Him aside and actually rebuked Him for saying it. (Matthew 16:21-22)
If you think that all of these servants of the Lord didn’t have to work through these complicated feelings they were feeling toward Him, you don’t have the first clue about human nature. It’s not that these men didn’t understand that God is sovereign, holy, and doesn’t make mistakes. The problem each of them had is that their emotions didn’t ask for permission to pop up inside them. This is how we humans are wired. Instinctually, we feel what we feel, and even though self-control can prevent us from expressing those feelings or acting upon them, what self-control cannot do is change the feelings themselves.
This is where the admittedly strange idea of forgiving God comes into play. Staying disappointed in Him or mad at Him is your choice, but that mindset will never get you to a better place spiritually. At some point you’re going to have to enter into some uncommon times of prayer with Him, prayers in which you vent all that toxic stuff that is bubbling inside you. Trust me, God can take it. If He took it from Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Peter, He can take it from you. Then, once you are finished with your venting — and that might require numerous rounds of prayer — you and God can begin to rebuild the fellowship between the two of you. Afterward, once that fellowship has been rebuilt to an adequate extent, the two of you can start to rebuild your “followship” to walk hand in hand with your fellowship.
Am I saying that any of this process is easy? Certainly not. The truth is that it’s so hard that many people never complete it and consequently spend the rest of their lives disappointed/angry with God. Others try to race through the process like it’s some kind of speed course and consequently fail to glean its full benefits. Neither outcome is desirable.
But then there are those precious few who slowly, carefully, methodically put in the time and effort to max out the course and in so doing reach an intimate fellowship with God that is deeper and more multilayered than any they ever planned to have with Him. These are the people who understand God about as fully as He can be understood, and they incorporate that understanding into ministry. In particular, they are able to counsel others who find themselves disappointed/angry with God. I won’t close this post by asking you to become such a counselor — that would require you yourself to first become disappointed/angry with God, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody — but I will close it by asking you to become such a counselor if you’ve lived firsthand what I’ve described in the preceding paragraphs. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I myself am in that group, and so what I’ve written here has been my attempt to be that kind of counselor. As for how God uses all this in the lives of others, I guess I’ll just leave that to Him.