Do You Need to Forgive God?

by Fr. Robert Wild

I don’t recall any place in the Scriptures where this notion of forgiving God occurs. (Yes, I mean forgiving God, not God’s forgiveness of us).

In the psalms, those prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit himself, we certainly have expressions of people being angry with God, remonstrating with him, questioning him, wondering if he’s listening or caring any more about the human condition, but forgiving him? No, I don’t think that notion is there.

But is there a place for it? When we think of forgiving we think most often of someone who has deliberately hurt us. They become our “enemies” and then we “must forgive them.”

But it’s also possible to be hurt and offended by someone without that person having intended to do so. In the human context, he or she may even be totally unaware of it.

I preached a sermon once in which, without knowing or intending to do so, I seriously offended someone who was in the congregation. After Mass she came up to me and said, “I forgive you.”

Even as she was talking, it wasn’t clear to me exactly why I was being forgiven. The injury was sort of a “one way affair.” That I had offended her was real enough; it was a hurt, a psychological and moral fact. But there had been no malice, no awareness, no deliberate intention on my part.

But to be healed of her hurt, she had to forgive me, even though I did not know I had hurt her.

In this sense, is it possible that because of our misunderstanding of God’s ways with us, we need to forgive him for some things?

I believe that many of us are carrying around deep grudges, gripes, and resentments against God himself.

Often they concern things about our life that are so fundamental and all-pervasive that we don’t know who else to blame except God.

It may be the circumstances of our birth, character, or physical appearance. It may be that we never got any “breaks” in life, started off with “two strikes against us,” suffered unexplainable tragedies, or saw them happen to those we love.

Some of these things are in all of our lives, and whom can we blame? No human agent can be connected to many of them.

Is it possible that, consciously or unconsciously, we blame God? And if we believe he has caused them and so hurt us, do we not have to forgive him?

I don’t believe this is poetry or any way-out theological flight of fancy. I believe, from my dealings with people and from my own experience, that this is a psychological fact: we are angry with God sometimes, and we blame him for some of the hurtful things that have happened to us.

God is not “guilty,” of course. It is our lack of faith and trust in his love for us which allows us even for a moment to misunderstand our relationship.

But God understands. He knows that the tragedies that often come our way (especially in early life before we know him too well) often overwhelm us, and in our pain we strike out at him in anger and frustration.

God is big enough to take our tantrums and fits of anger. Big enough to “be forgiven” even though it’s an attitude that doesn’t quite fit our relationship with him.

In these responses of anger, questioning, and “forgiving” God, we always have to be careful of arrogance. These attitudes, of their very nature, tend to put us in a position of superiority. They are certainly due to our lack of confidence and trust in God’s ever constant love.

But, if the Psalmist could get angry at God sometimes, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that sometimes we may have to forgive him to heal certain areas of our hearts that have been wounded by life’s hurts.