Forgiving God. It sounds like an irrational act. He has not sinned. God is good and has done us no wrong. God is sovereign over all of creation. He does not need our forgiveness. Yet our hearts can still be angry at God. We can carry a grudge against God. We may feel punished by God, or resent that he didn’t do one thing or stop another like we wanted him to. Over time, our anger drives a wedge of distance into our relationship with him. Although our anger may be misplaced, our healing can be found only when we forgive God and release the anger that we hold toward him. He doesn’t need it, but we do. And it’s okay--he can take it.
It is not uncommon to wrestle with God over difficult questions. Where is God when his people are suffering? Intellectually, we know that our God of love does not cause pain and suffering, but it is hard to reconcile the power and goodness of God with the reality of pain that we experience in this earthly life. Why should a whole community be wiped out by a disaster? Why should a young father face cancer? Why must a parent grieve the loss of a child? We are left to wonder where God fits in and why he doesn’t exercise his power to end pointless suffering. Asking these kinds of questions doesn’t mean that we lack faith, it means that we are human. We can find God through the exercise of questioning. When we face God in our doubts and anger, we will find him faithful.
God is big enough to hear our pain and bear the weight of our sorrows. It may seem wrong to express anger toward God, but lament is healthy. Too often we turn from God in shame over our anger instead of inviting him to carry our burden of pain. Our loving God does not cause our pain nor does he sit distant to our struggles. He grieves with the pain of our heart and walks with us through every step, even when our eyes are too filled with frustration to recognize his presence. He longs to hear the cry of our hearts and he grieves with us.
The psalms are full of raw human emotion: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” The words of the psalms cry out to God in anger, they question God’s faithfulness, they grieve with abandonment, they make demands on God’s faithfulness, and they find joy and peace through trust in God. The psalmist is not afraid to express his darkest feelings to God.
Psalm 13 offers a model of what it looks like to offer lament and move on to forgiveness. The psalmist moves through four movements: an expression of anger and grief, an expression of what’s wrong, an expression of what he wants God to do about it, and finally an expression of trust. The psalmist moves back to trust in God with a recognition of God’s unfailing love. This biblical model is one we can embrace to move toward healing and reconciliation with God.
You might consider this pattern for yourself. Write your own Psalm of Lament. Write four brief sentences or paragraphs. Express your anger and grief, express the details of what’s wrong, express what you want God to do about it, and finally express your trust that the faithful God of merciful justice will make things right.
When we are angry with God, we don’t get to look him in the eye and demand an explanation. Job never fully understood the cause of all of his suffering. Likewise, we will not always see God’s plan clearly until we meet him in heaven. For now, our vision is cloudy; as 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us,
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
God may not give us the whole plan upfront, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t with us or that he doesn’t care. He mourns every tear that falls and we know Jesus wept over the pain of this world.
As mere humans who cannot fathom the mind of God nor discern his greater plan and purpose, we struggle to see how God works through the pain in our lives.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34).
We are out of our depth when we begin to second guess God’s plan for our lives. As the clay does not get to tell the potter how to structure his creation, we are not in a position to tell God how to run his world. God listens to our heartache because he loves us, but the reality is that we don’t get to be in charge.
The psalms guide us to trust God even when we are unsure of what God is doing. There is nothing easy about trusting when you feel broken. It is an exercise of trust to release our anger to God. In speaking our heart’s emotions, we acknowledge that God is big enough to handle our pain and loving enough to be trusted with our heart.
So does God need to be forgiven? Of course not. Do we need to move through the process of expressing and releasing our anger to God? Absolutely! God is looking for sincere hearts willing to come to him with all of their baggage. His desire for us is that we,
“lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Handing over our burdens frees us to love God unhindered. Our relationship with God grows closer as we courageously bring our grievances to God and trust that God, in his goodness, has the better plan.
Looking for a resource about forgiveness? Check out our new ebook, The Power of Forgiveness: A Guide to Healing. It's free when you subscribe to Family Fire.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson