December 14

Forgiving God?

Proverbs 19:3 When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. (ESV)

Mark 7:37a And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well….”

A popular thought in some current Christian circles is the concept of “forgiving God.” Though it may sound confusing, its goal is to free believers from attitudes they might have against the Lord for the difficult struggles they’ve experienced in their life. The goal is great: to release feelings of resentment and anger and to come to a place of peace.

There’s only one thing wrong: While it sounds vaguely spiritual, it’s based on a falsehood and can never really accomplish the goal of internal peace. That’s for one simple reason: our God doesn’t do wrong things; He has no need for forgiveness. We are the sinners, and we have been the ones that have needed forgiveness.

Of course there are painful and confusing times in our lives. Many of us have been treated outrageously, lied about, abused, and deliberately attacked. God doesn’t ordain sin, so we know that it is the people who did this that need to be forgiven. What we may sometimes feel is a “need” to forgive God is really a need to do the hard work of forgiving those that have been hard to forgive.

The idea of forgiving God also functions at times as a substitute for humility and a releasing of things to the Lord. We can get angry and confused when events have overwhelmed us, and we quite normally desire an end to the pain. “Forgiving God” is a kind of fool’s gold, looking like a breakthrough emotional event (and one that tempts our pride by seeming so spiritually mature) but being in actuality a worthless counterfeit.

The hard reality is that our own bad decisions may have led to the current state of affairs, and we can’t fall into the trap of the fool in Proverbs 19:3 (above). We sometimes notice the irony of the unbeliever who has absolutely no place in his life for God, but then will ask where God was when such-and-such occurred. The “Christian” version of that is to blame God for a situation and to arrogantly ignore the possibility that our sin, or even our mistake, has led to the current sad state of affairs.

Yet even if we have been blameless in the painful situation in which we find ourselves, God doesn’t need to be forgiven. We may need to “humble [ourselves]…under God’s mighty hand” (I Peter 5:6) as we acknowledge His right to train or chastise us as He pleases. Our arrogance may be found in our being so offended intellectually by what has happened that our inability to understand our situation leads us to accuse God, which places us over Him rather than being submitted to Him. It may be hard at times to stay open and trusting, but we are allowing ourselves to be defiled if we allow a root of bitterness to take root in our heart (Hebrews 12:15).

As admirable as the final goal might be, the concept of needing to forgive God is a fallacious one. There isn’t one godly road to go down when faced with anger and pain, but this one should say, “Road Closed”.

Prayer: Father, help me avoid this trap in my life. It may be easy for me to grasp onto, but I see that it’s an appeal to my pride and my flesh. When hard times come, help me to continue to turn to You for grace.

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