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Forgiving God

He let you down. He didn’t do what God is “supposed” to—answer your desperate prayer, provide for your critical need, save your loved one’s life. In fact, with the way things have gone it seems like God is using you for target practice with His arrows of suffering. And now your relationship with Him is strained.

Sometimes it’s the big issues that birth the hurt and disappointment. Your loved one is diagnosed with a crippling or terminal illness or dies suddenly. You suffer abuse, or experience a major loss of some other kind. These hurts hit without warning and leave you devastated in the turmoil of its wake.

Other times it’s little things accumulating that lead to disappointment. Reversals, misfortunes, battles, struggles—they all add up. You tell yourself that God could have made it work out different but He didn’t. And soon you’re living with a constant sense of betrayal.

Disappointment with God is one of the most common reasons people give for not believing in God anymore, turning away from church, and keeping distant from Christianity.

And this isn’t something only unbelievers wrestle with. Saints of old struggled with disappointment. In Psalm 13:1-2 David wrote, 

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

So what do you do when you’re disappointed with God—forgive Him? That you need God’s forgiveness is without question. That God needs to be forgiven borders on blasphemy. Why? Because the act of forgiving implies that the object of forgiveness is guilty of sin and needs to be pardoned. But God is holy and can't sin. Therefore, no one has the right to pardon Him.

Even though God doesn’t sin, you may treat Him as if He has sinned. If this is the case you need to go through a process with God that resembles forgiveness. You may need to "forgive" Him.

Why is this necessary?

One reason is because emotions are responders. Emotions arise from your expectations and how you interpret experiences. What you think about God determines your expectations of Him and when He doesn’t act the way you think He should, you wonder if He cares. If you don’t believe God cares about you it can lead to feelings of abandonment and a loss of trust.

How do you “forgive” God?

Making peace with God comes from evaluating your beliefs and expectations of Him. Are you holding a grudge against God? It’s possible your beliefs about Him are wrong. Check that your thinking is based on how Scripture reveals Him to be, not what you believe God should be. If you’re unsure of some of your ideas, read the Bible and speak with someone you trust.

Another step in coming to a place of “forgiving” God and being reconciled to Him is by viewing the situation through the Gospel. Here’s what I mean: In this world of sin and wrong, God allows things, even bad things, to happen for His purposes. They aren’t right. But just because He allows them doesn’t mean He thinks they are right either.

In anguish Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). It wasn’t right that an innocent Man die for sins He didn’t commit. But Jesus endured the cross because He knew the joy and glory that was ahead (Hebrews 12:2). And so He died, committing His spirit into the hands of the Father, surrendered and reconciled to God and anticipating glory ahead.

This is also true for you. You may experience wrong or suffering and feel abandoned by God. But the good news is the Father says that one day He will make it all right. Jesus suffered so that all could be reconciled to God. Where was God when Jesus was suffering? He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

You may be holding a grudge against God “to make Him pay,” but He already did on the cross. Christ’s death and resurrection are God’s provision and promise that one day He’ll work it all out and make it all right. Tears and sorrow will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4-5).

Accepting this by faith, forgiving God, and choosing to let go of your grudges is the path to peace and reconciliation with Him now.