A friend asked, “Do you think it’s right to tell people they need to forgive God?”
My first thought is purely theological: God cannot and does not sin. When you forgive someone, it is usually because they have sinned against you, and God does not sin against anyone, so there is nothing for you to forgive.
Many preachers would stop there—next question.
However, for the sake of people who are hurting and angry, let’s go deeper and try to see it from another perspective.
What if you asked a different question? What if the question was, “Can I tell God that I’m angry with Him, or do I need to keep that anger to myself?” If that’s the question, the answer is, “Pour out your heart to the Lord” (cf. Lam 2:19).
For example, when righteous Job suffered terribly, he let God know that he was angry:
“I am disgusted with my life.
I will give vent to my complaint
and speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God,
‘Do not declare me guilty!
Let me know why you prosecute me’” (Job 10:1-2).
While Job focused on personal suffering, Jeremiah focused on national suffering. And he spoke his heart, too. As the Babylonians laid waste to Jerusalem, the prophet cried out and compared God to an enemy:
The Lord is like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel.
He swallowed up all its palaces
and destroyed its fortified cities.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation
within Daughter Judah (Lam 2:5).
These godly men expressed their anger, frustration, and raw emotions to God. They were free to do that. And the Lord saw fit to make their examples and complaints part of Scripture.
Because our heavenly Father listens to His children, even when they’re scared, angry, or confused.
He listens, and if necessary, He corrects. As Terry Wardle writes,
As emotions are expressed, He honors them, moving in with compassion and care. He then through Scripture and the witness of the Holy Spirit reminds us of His perfect perspective. Like Job, victims are schooled in His sovereignty and justice, and like the writer of Psalm 77, encouraged to meditate on His past deeds. This emotional cleansing allows room for peace and inner healing to enter (Wardle, Wounded, p. 53).
God corrects your perspective, but rarely will He explain Himself. If you’re looking for specific answers to why He allowed those bad things to happen in your situation, speak your heart, and ask your questions, but don’t hold your breath for answers.
So, returning to the original question, “Is it right to tell people they need to forgive God?”
If forgiveness implies that God has done something wrong, I’d still answer, “No,” because God wrongs no one. And since no verse says we should forgive God, perhaps we should stop there.
Could there be a place to forgive God for other things?
How about for not giving you the answers and explanations you thought you needed at the time? Or for being hidden, distant, and silent during the dark night of your soul? Or how about for seeming like an enemy when you were most in need of a savior?
Can we forgive God for those things? In what sense?
The Greek word for forgive (aphiēmi) can mean to cancel, release, or give up. With that in mind, how might it be right to forgive God?
Sometimes, after you experience a tragedy, you might feel like God owes you. Forgiving God can mean canceling that debt.
Or it may be proper to forgive God in the sense of releasing Him from your demand that He explains the reason for your suffering.
Or it may be appropriate to forgive God in the sense of giving up your bitterness and anger towards Him.
And then, when your anger has been vented, your complaint has been heard, and your pains brought to light, the Holy Spirit will bring healing to that wound, a new perspective to your situation, and greater humility before your loving Father.
Thought for the day: Forgiving God may not be something you do for Him, but for yourself.