- to give up resentment of, or claim to, something given in return, compensation, or retaliation
- to cease to feel resentment against
Is it ever appropriate to talk about forgiving God? I guess it would depend what we mean by “forgive”. If we are implying wrongdoing on God’s part, then I would say no. But what about the aspect of forgiveness that means, “to cease to feel resentment against”?
When we consider this life and the inevitable struggle it entails, a problem arises. God doesn’t always act the way we want Him to. He’s not some cosmic genie who grants our every wish.
Believe it or not, this realization has been hard for me. Not that I have expected God to do whatever I want. Or maybe I have. Certainly I shouldn’t have–I should have known better. “God’s ways are not our ways” and all that. But mainly because when you give your life to someone, it is almost impossible to not expect something in return.
How many nights have I thought, “God, I’ve given you my life. I’ve spent 20 years trying to serve you. Can I get a little help here?” Only to see… nothing happen. Or, to be more clear, the one thing I want to happen doesn’t, at least in the way I want it to. Or when I want it to. Sometimes, we even see our situation get worse.
Our life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard. Really hard. Four kids, one of whom has special needs. Every day is full of challenges. Every day is a struggle.
When my son was born, our attention shifted from trying to pursue a “good” life to just surviving. One day to the next. Long weeks in the hospital. Being told our son wasn’t going to make it. The fear. The worry. Doctor appointments several times a week. Not knowing which way was up.
In time, some of the immediate urgency began to settle down. My son did make it. His weekly appointments started to become monthly appointments, then twice a year, then once a year. We met with specialists, therapists, pastors, and everyone we could. God remained faithful, but let’s face it–several years went by where we could hardly draw an easy breath. And as the years passed, the diagnoses started to pile up. Intellectual disability, ADHD, autism, a rare heart condition, apraxia, GI issues that we still haven’t been able to figure out, and most recently, seizures.
It’s hard. Every time I walk by the discount book rack and see “Your Best Life Now” I want to punch Joel what’s-his-face right in his perfect little chin.
Because the Christian life isn’t rainbows and roses. Nor should I have ever thought it was going to be. Jesus didn’t mince words: “In this world you will have trouble.” He wasn’t joking. He wasn’t implying that there would be some trials but not really any that were “that bad”. But somewhere along the way I let myself think that if I just love God and my fellow man, everything was going to be “alright”.
But it hasn’t been.
And that has left me angry. It didn’t start as anger. A little bitterness, here. Some built up resentment, there. But as struggles increased and rushed upon us like waves of the sea, not leaving time to even catch our breath or do much else but stagger and scramble to try to brace for the next crashing blow, bitterness and resentment gave way to anger.
Crash. “What on earth, God? I thought we were friends.” Another blow. “God, please help.” Crash. “God, please speak to us.” Silence. Crash. “God, we can’t take any more.” Blow after blow after crashing blow. Parents know all about the exhaustion and worry. Special needs parents know just how hard it can be. How dark and long the night. How deep the pain. How awful the silence from heaven.
But, as I’ve thought about all of this, and trust me, I have spent a lot of time thinking about all of this, I’ve started to think that maybe I’m not being entirely fair with God.
I mean, He made me. And my beautiful wife. He made my kids. What would I do without them? They make us smile continually. I’m happy with my life and the choices we’ve made. Wouldn’t change it for the world.
Not to mention that we live in America, so we likely have it better than most of the people who live on this planet. We have a roof over our heads. We haven’t missed any meals. I try to keep that all in mind. We have seen God do amazing things, including miraculous healing, faithful provision, and answers to prayer, though usually not in the form we would have chosen.
But more than all of that, God saved me. In the summer of 1997, God reached into my life and met me where I was. I was at the bottom of the barrel. My life was in shambles. I was a drug addict, an alcoholic (though I didn’t know it at the time), a college dropout. I was selling plasma a couple times a week just trying to get my next fix. I had no idea what to do. I was going nowhere. But God loved me anyway. He spoke words of life and light over me. He saved me.
That is enough, isn’t it? Certainly it is! But somewhere along the way, I started wanting more from God. I wanted a good life. A worry free life. A struggle free life. I wanted health and wealth. Who doesn’t?
And, in my ignorance, I actually thought God was going to give it to me. I hate even confessing that, but to tell the truth, when our struggles started to mount up, I was actually surprised. Surprised! Jesus was the only perfect man to walk the earth, and He was killed on a cross. It’s not like many of His followers fared much better. I’m pretty sure that all but one of the disciples were martyred. Do you know any people who are free from worry and struggle? I don’t. Not if you take the time to find out how they are really doing.
But I still found myself surprised. And angry. Angry that God was not being who I thought He was “supposed” to be. A rainbow maker. A wish granter. A provider of worldly wealth and happiness.
As I have come to grips with the fact that God is not who I thought He was, I had this idea one day that I was just going to have to forgive Him for that. After all, it’s not like He promised that this life was going to be easy. I thought He was one way, and I learned through sin, pain, and struggle that He wasn’t.
And I need to forgive Him for that.
I’ll mention again that I don’t mean to imply any wrongdoing on His part. I’m referring to the aspect of forgiveness that entails “ceasing to feel resentment against”. I don’t think that is too far of a stretch. In marriage, I “forgive” my wife in this manner all the time. For imagined slights. For misunderstandings. For things she has not even said or done or intended, but that hurt or angered me nonetheless. And when, after talking, we come to the truth of the matter, I forgive her.
It may sound silly to you, but it isn’t to me. God is not who I thought He was. But I forgive Him for that. In fact, I admit that that it is a good thing.
Mike Fabarez, in a book called, “Lifelines for Tough Times”, comments on people who have experienced suffering, saying,
“Namely, that their frustration and disappointment with God, because he had “failed” to protect them from life’s tragedies, had driven them to “lose their faith.” In a way, this can be a good thing. Not that they are upset with God, but that their unbiblical assumptions about God are revealed and forced to change. For if our “faith” has been in a “god” who is presupposed to exempt us from life’s pain and suffering, then it is a faith that needs to be lost. It needs to be exchanged for a biblical faith in the real God.
There is much truth in that. If I expect God to meet my every expectation, then it is not Him that needs to change. It is me. If I think that God is going to answer my every prayer for healing or for freedom from struggle, I will be sorely disappointed. Everyone gets sick. Everyone dies. There are few things that can be known with 100% certainty, but suffering and hardship are among them.
And I need to forgive God for that. I need to give up my resentment that He has not met my expectations for Him.
I suppose I can do that. I’m trying. I am a work in progress. God knows what He has forgiven me for. Truly, my list of offenses would outweigh that of most people. God not doing what He never said He would (exempt me and my family from suffering) is not an offense. It is an imagined slight. A misunderstanding. On my part. And so, I am working on forgiving God. I hope that He will understand what I mean when I say that. I hope you will too.