To discuss forgiving God may seem as if I am accusing God of doing wrong, but that is not the case. Forgiving God is very similar to forgiving ourselves since in both instances we are letting go of our disappointment. Just as we can be angry with ourselves when we do not live up to our own standards we may become resentful toward God for not being the God we want. Because of our limited understanding we often believe that there is something better that God could be doing than what he is. The reality is that we do become unhappy with God, and we need to “forgive” or let go of that disappointment.
Our unhappiness with God when we do not get what we want is not because everything we want is bad. We innately desire peace, happiness, relationship, and many other good things. Often, the circumstances of our struggles are beyond our control but we believe that they are not beyond God’s control. The good we desire seems elusive and we wonder why God does not give it more readily.
Our disappointment is inevitable because we want life to be different than it is, for tragedy not to occur, hurt and pain to go away, and we lay the blame on God for what is going wrong. We are not interested in fine distinctions of allowing or causing, God is responsible for our existence and apparently knew the evil that was going to happen even if he did not cause it. Clearly, we have reason to be upset with God because we trust God for goodness that seems not to come. We may believe that God does not actually do what is wrong, but his action or inaction often seems wrong to us. This is what we must let go of . . . that God is not the God we want.
We do not have to like everything that happens to us. To be unhappy with God is not sinful, but could descend into bitterness and resentment if we do not let go of our disappointment and “forgive” God. God’s will is not always our will, as Jesus expresses distinctly in the garden (Luke 22:42). Jesus had to let go of what he wanted and to accept the will of his Father, but the gospel accounts relate how agonizing this was. The temptation to avoid the cross was what the devil offered three years earlier at the beginning of his ministry, so I suspect that he struggled to accept his Father’s will the whole time. It was not during the night in the garden only. We could say Jesus had to “forgive” his Father for not letting that cup pass.
We see a similar but lesser situation with Paul who prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He wanted God to be the God who takes the thorn away, but God did not. In the end, he accepts that God’s strength is brought to completion in weakness. I would call this “forgiving” God for not being the God he hoped for.
Some say that we deserve all the bad that happens to us and truly deserve far worse. According to their way of thinking, we should be thankful that not even greater suffering comes into our lives. If one is unhappy for what God is doing or not doing, their response is that God by all rights should do even worse so you should be grateful. However, such talk lines up with the friends of Job (Job 11:6) who are chastised by God for saying such things (Job 42:7).
We would all like God to be “useful” to us. In other words, we would like God to help us and protect us and bless us in the ways we want that to happen. Whenever God does not meet our expectations we ultimately have to accept God for who God is. We also learn to trust that God is more the God we need than we realize, and that he does what is truly good and helpful. Letting go of how we want God to be and trusting him involves “forgiving” God for how he does not do what we think is best.