Forgiving God

I’m a long way from orthodoxy on this one. 

I’ve been asking around, but concrete answers are hard to find. Everyone seems to think that I should do it, but no one (including me) likes the notion or thinks that “forgiveness” is the right word, but I can’t seem to find a better one.

I guess maybe I should tell the story, first. I’m not sure where the beginning is, but I’ll try starting at the first “offense.”


“In love” would best describe how I felt. Maybe infatuated, maybe something else… but then suddenly it was over, and it was my fault, and the fault of my own sins. I felt like my heart was being cut in half, except with scissors cutting one string at a time. I wanted to die, but God had different plans. Eventually, the healing started.

Then I got a “good job” at last, and I made some friends and dealt with some issues. The pain subsided and I eventually accepted the breakup as being part of God’s plan to move me to something better. But there I was, working a job I didn’t really like, feeling like I was going nowhere, when I heard of Jumonville. I prayed and sought God and felt with certainty that He was leading me to work there for the summer.

Jumonville was amazing. I felt connected, loved, useful, and valuable. But as the wonderful summer drew to a close, I found myself praying more and more that God would show me what was next. Nothing happened, except that I felt some peace sometimes while I prayed. On the last day, I drove down the hill, not even knowing where I would sleep that night. Tears filled my eyes as I navigated the sharp turns – not for the uncertainty of where I would sleep, but for the leaving of friends.

Life in the Blender
The next few weeks felt like life on the inside of a blender. I was dizzy, going crazy, with piles to do, but nothing to do all day, trying to figure out where to go next. I couldn’t figure out what God was up to, if anything. Then I discovered Huntington University. Somehow it seemed right, and I’d been praying so long that I took it as “God’s will,” or decided that God wanted me to make this choice on my own. So I made it. The monetary similarities between renting an apartment and attending school were so close, it must have been a sign! And I knew that if I didn’t go to school in 2009, it wouldn’t happen ever.

Huntington was crazy. My first semester, I didn’t have a roommate. I constantly wondered whether I was doing what God wanted me to or not. Should I have waited longer? Prayed more? Was I “out of God’s will?” What was going on?

More clearly, though, loneliness was pervasive. I didn’t have a church family, a small group, or (what I was really hoping for) a Jumonville-like family. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody in my dorm because they wouldn’t understand. They were intellectuals, and came at deep theological problems that I wrestled with on a real level from a theoretical level. Consequently, I only shared my feelings of isolation with friends from Jumonville. There were a few bright spots, like Tim, a few people i swapped stories with, like Amos and Taylor… but my life felt wretchedly empty. I tried to start small groups for other people who felt isolated, but kept chickening out. Why would God do this to me, I wondered.

Michindoh and Red Lamp
Then came J-Term and Camp Michindoh. I slowly started connecting with people. Vince and I led a cabin together, with great success, and formed the kind of bond people form when they go through a war together. When we got back to Huntington for the spring semester, I moved to a freshman dorm. People came by to say hello, and Sean and Vince lived upstairs. I had friends now who knew things about me that… I wouldn’t have told them. (That was a good thing).

I discovered (almost by accident) a group called Red Lamp. Red Lamp was everything I had been trying to start the semester before. I was kinda angry at God, because Red Lamp was around last semester when I was alone and lonely and miserable.

I gradually realized that I didn’t trust God at all. Over the past few months, I had unconsciously decided that He wasn’t to be trusted. Sending me away to someplace where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t trust anyone, and taking me away from my biological family and my spiritual family… and letting me feel so dang alone for so long… how can you trust someone who does something like that?

He Loves Us
But a curious thing happened. After I admitted to not trusting God, He started working. The song “He Loves Us” played everywhere I went, and though I barely believed it, I started singing it half-heartedly. I read about how God was kind to Israel after they left Egypt, and while they complained, He provided for them. When they were thirsty and didn’t understand and thought He had left them in the desert to die, He simply provided water. They complained, and He provided. (Frederick Buechner remarked that “the Jews… are just like everybody else only more so.)

And last night during Red Lamp, it kinda culminated. I was reminded of Isaiah 43:4, where God says that “…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” and I started trying to process it.

Precious? Me? I barely understand the meaning of the word. Honored? I get that, but it doesn’t seemed to apply. “I love you.” Loved? I rewrote the word in my prayer journal incredulously, trying to remember what love felt like, giving or receiving. I missed that feeling.

And then I remembered an illustration I’d made at Jumonville, about how God always loves us, but we can block His love from reaching us sometimes. I realized that my not trusting Him was blocking me from receiving His love. If you don’t let God in, nothing that belongs to Him can get in.

So I decided that I want to let Him in. I want to let go of my grudge and my hard feelings. He’s too kind to keep out, and too gracious to force His way in. But He’s knocking now, and His grace is ringing out “so deep, it makes my resistance seem so thin” (Hold Me Jesus, Rich Mullins). And He’s such a gentleman that I think He’s waiting patiently for me to make up my mind about this forgiveness business. I don’t think He’s upset at me… and I’m not sure if I can be, at Him.

But there’s a problem: How do you let go of a grudge against God? How do you release resentment and mend the relationship? Were it anyone else, we would say forgiveness. But it’s not as though God can commit any kind of crime! Sin is impossible to Him, so to “forgive” God as though He had done us some evil will certainly not work. And certainly, I know that He is doing this for my good… but He hasn’t bothered to explain what good it is, and I don’t know if it even matters. I still feel hurt… but I want to release that hurt from blocking me from my Father’s love.

And I wonder if Joseph, in jail, ever became angry or resentful at God? Did Joseph have to “forgive” God, for lack of a better word? Another blogger points out that Paul “beseeches” the church at Corinth to “be reconciled to God.”

Of late, people have said a lot about being angry with God. It has become acceptable to shake one’s fist at heaven and scream that it’s unfair. But how do you pull down your fist and, the situation seeming no less unfair and making not one iota more sense, embrace God in spite of it all because He loves you in spite of all your so-called evidence to the contrary? Should it be called repentance? Is repentance a way of “forgiving God?” Is “Forgiveness” an appropriate word for what I want to do? What do you think?

About David M. Schell





31 responses to “Forgiving God”

  1. Kristen Marie Avatar

    I'm not sure if "forgiveness" is the right word for this scenerio.. Because a large part of the population knows that "forgive" means to pardon a wrong. And we know that it's impossible to pardon God because there is nothing to pardon. I still think the word for this embracement of God "inspite of it all" is submit or acceptance because really.. the decision to obey and accept God's will even though the circumstances are screaming to you the opposite….shows that there's a sense of the power of God…because it's not our human to walk by faith rather than by sight. Submitting is the decision (with some help from God) to embrace God’s plan for your life even though you may not like it but you trust that God knows what’s best for you by remembering God’s endless promises in the Bible.

  2. David Schell Avatar

    Hmm. Submission doesn't seem like a response of the heart though. It just seems like something we do because we don't have a choice. You can submit half-heartedly.

  3. Kristen Marie Avatar

    You always have a choice.

  4. David Schell Avatar

    I'm not sure… do you always get to choose how you feel?

  5. David Schell Avatar

    I think that may be a deception perpetuated by the church… that we can control how we feel. How we feel doesn't have to control us, but… you know?

  6. Kristen Marie Avatar

    Actually, you do have control over your feelings. If you didn't…then Psychiatrists would be out of a job…what do they do? They help you understand what you're feeling to control them…

  7. David Schell Avatar

    Hmmm… I'll work on that. I thought psych's were supposed to help work through feelings and figure out where they're coming from.

  8. Jaye Beatty Avatar

    Whatever you call it, you believed that God couldn't be trusted, and now you are willing to try again…and take that little step of faith and trust in Him. You were offended, even though God didn't do anything wrong. Just say your sorry, and hug Him! : >

  9. Kristen Marie Avatar

    aaandd how to control them.

  10. David Schell Avatar

    haha i love you, aunt jaye 🙂

  11. Eun Soo Kim Avatar

    First, I want to thank you for sharing your story with me. I'm sure it was very hard for you. I also have experienced times when I felt that God abandoned me and was really angry at Him. But from hindsight, I realized that He is always planning our way in long term. All the hardships we go through are not there because He doesn't care enough for us but because He knows that those experiences are going to help us in serving God the way He wants. By going through certain incidents, we become capable of understanding the feelings of others with similar experiences and encourage them to go forward. I don't think that thinking about "forgiving God" helps you a lot, so just forget about it. God is glad when we're honest before Him about our feelings, among which is anger. Since you realized that your grudge against Him has been wrong, just thank Him for leading your life and move on.

  12. Vincent Nixon Avatar

    im actually gonna throw my thoughts into the mix here and agree with kristen and say that forgiveness is not the right word but im gonna expand on it in my own wayone thing i saw that was good was that you know God to be perfect which is great. Now holding a grudge part i can totally relate to that because although God is perfect we dont always like what He does sometimes and i've had plenty of memories of having something i dont like happen to me. In this i began to experience what i believe to be my spiritual winter. Eventually through alot of praying and help from others i began to come out of this winter, afterwards i began to wonder why God would do all of this to me. Psalm 32 1- 5 states "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "—and you forgave the guilt of my sin." (Found this verse while typing this thought it might help sorry for random put it)so through my time i realized that i had this guilt of all the crap i've done. and i found that God had forgiven me. but i hadnt forgiven myself, it was this giant loop hole of how in the world am i supposed to accept God's total forgiveness when i hadnt deserved it. thats why i held this grudge against God because He may have forgiven me but i couldnt forgive myself this then through a turn of events i came to the conclusion that i couldnt forgive or keep a grudge against God, both would mean i was better than God and that i was in control. In reality i needed to forgive myself of turning away from God and the guilt that came with it by still wondering why i had to go through those experiences and knowing that it was my sins that put me through those experiences. What happened was i realized that God had already forgiven those things i did and that i should let go of those things and just live for God and things would work out better than living for myself.i hope this makes sense i naturally have a hard time explaining things and on computer it only makes it even harder >.< but if u got any questions i can try to expand more

  13. David Schell Avatar

    Vince! Thank you for your input. iloveyou and… i think in my case it wasn't about feelings of guilt… it was more like misgivings about whether God can be trusted, built up over quite a while. Read on…Eun Soo Kim: Thank you so much for commenting… I eventually figured out that "forgiving" wasn't quite the right word. I guess it was just maybe… letting go of my anger. It's like you've got a friend who you think has hurt you a lot and then you find out they've loved you all along… maybe forgiveness isn't the right word… but what is? Here's how it turned out… which will show up as an ammendment to the note later…I was in chapel last night and decided to stop worrying about the technicalities and just tell God that I released my grudge and anger… against Him… and asked for His help to do it. During worship, I went through a slow and steady process… and my blockades slowly came down and I was able to receive His love and be filled with joy. The walls I'd unknowingly built against Him came down, and by the time I was back in my dorm, I felt foolish for having put them up in the first place.

  14. Eun Soo Kim Avatar

    I'm glad your problems are resolved now. Hope you're always filled with peace!

  15. Jillian Stiemke Avatar

    Dave this is great!! I agree with Katie that forgiveness isn't the right word. I'm kind of right there with you with the shaking the fist thing. What if submission isn't the right word either? What if it's relinquish? I mean God does no wrong so we can't forgive Him. Submission can be half hearted although in my eyes real submission is out of love so I don't think half hearted submission is really submission but almost kind of like pouting you know? If it's half hearted you've got your reserves and thoughts that are like "fine you want to do this, I'll let you but I won't be happy about it" you know? I may be off about this but….now that I think about it relinquish isn't right either. What if it's bowing? bowing to His will. I mean in that action, you can still have reserves but you're bent over, eyes looking at the floor so with that action you are saying " I don't know what you're doing, I don't think I like it, but you're the one who can see and I don't really want to, but i'm forcing myself to trust you because I want to love you and trust you." A heart that is bowed you know? Make sense? Anywhere in the ball park?

  16. David Schell Avatar

    I'm not sure about bowing, either. Maybe just releasing the grudge and the anger. I couldn't find the right word last night, so I went with releasing. Whereas with people, we release them from being objects of our anger or resentment, I think with God, we simply release our anger. I don't really like the bowing, either… I think it's something that has to happen IN us. It's more a heart that's being romanced by God and an awakening that He loves us SO INCREDIBLY MUCH and the walls slowly crumble.

  17. Maggie Watson Avatar

    WOW, David I love reading this and seeing the transformation that you are going through! I know that we have established that forgiveness is not the right word, so whats really going on here? You expressed that you realized that you did not see God as being trusted. You were angry at Him. But, really He was the one who was taking care of you all along. I feel like there needs to be some repentance on your part for not trusting God. Because God is to be trusted. For us to surrender to the Lord we have to reject and let go of past sin. When first excepting Jesus as savior, one must realize their sin and turn away from it! Only then can they accept what God has for them. You have to be able to say "God its true, I did not trust you, I'm sorry for that because you are trust worthy." Then you can you can fill that angry hole with trust in a trust worthy God. It's surrendering and letting go of the control that you think that you have. I mean this problem goes back to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:1-5 it says:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." The serpent deceived Eve in telling her that God did not have her best interests in mind (that He was not to be trusted) Its a lie that we so easily believe. I know that I tend to try to take matters into my own hands; saying that God cannot be trusted with it. As for feelings, the truth is that they are very hard to control, but that's another thing that will be changed with surrender. Even though it may not "feel" right in the moment, the more time spent with God will change that. He is the one who Loves you and knows the desires of your heart! Psalm 37:4- "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."Oh, how He loves you David and is calling you back to Himself.

  18. William Malarkey Avatar

    Dave this hits closer to home than i think a lot of us are willing to admit to anyone but their closest confidantes. your message gives me a lot of insight into my own life story. I know exactly where u are coming from when u say that to "forgive" God requires a lot of ego/pride. how can you forgive the epitome of perfectness for a slight that is only a slight to you? even though you admit that it is for your eventual benefit it still pangs your heart for the sheer unfairness of the situation. Its easy to say that it is a growing experience, but on a personal level the fallen "human-ness" in all of us wants satisfaction for the pains. Isn't it ironic that you have to ask the same God that "caused" this pain to give you the strength and patience to make amends on a personal or mental level for your weakness in permitting the situation to get to this point before you turned and embraced him and said "Help me Father, for I have turned from your love and am blocking myself from it. Soften my stubborn heart and embrace me into your warm loving bosom." Love you Dave-keep the updates flowingps. cant wait to talk all about this with you during the summer. are you coming up for adv training again this year?

  19. David Schell Avatar

    I'm on adventure staff.. if I can make it back, I'll be there. It's just a matter of timing, and when the semester ends.

  20. Ree Enlow Avatar

    Will, this makes sense. Dave, does it make sense to you? When I said we should forgive God, I didn't mean He was capable of doing something wrong. Our perception of His wrong still sticks something on Him in our spirit. This could provide fodder for the enemy if it is not removed and forgiven. Then we take our own wrongness and ask for forgiveness because God is perfect. And He has promised to forgive. Good thing He is bigger than any and all of our sins!

  21. David Schell Avatar

    Yeah, it makes sense 🙂 Thank you 🙂 ♥ this is our call-mom weekend.. what time works for you?

  22. Ree Enlow Avatar

    Sunday after 7 pm. Does that work for you?

  23. David Schell Avatar

    Hmmm… Not really. I've got dancing going on at that time… 🙁

  24. Ree Enlow Avatar

    when are you finished dancing?

  25. David Schell Avatar

    8pm, but then… OH WAIT! I'm not going to that movie after all! Yeah, 8 would probably work 🙂

  26. Ree Enlow Avatar

    sounds good…looking forward to the visit.

  27. Tim Bajema Avatar

    So this is a bit late but I had been bored and was facebooking and realized that I had never finished reading this!!!! I have some various and hopefully helpful even after the fact thoughts for you.I have been in a place like that before it hurts it sucks and in a way I'm still not through it I can go into more detail with you layer if you would like. One of the hardest things to do in life for most people is to admit your wrong. And even when your going to a place to admit your wrong already knowing that your forgiven. There will always be the issue of forgiving yourself even after knowing God has. I'm not sure where I'm going with this but I do relate to you on this one!On another note. When it ces to feelings I belibe that we do have "control" but a better way to phrase it would be "influence" our feelings are all realitive to experiences we have had, are having or think that we will have. Almost all of these experiences are consicuinces due to choices we have made. But to think your feelings are contrived and controlled is silly. The key is how you react to things that have happened, you will have your instant reactions and feelings which will be followed by what you do with these feelings, you can be possitive or negative about your circumstances this is where one will have influence on his feelings, because if you react negative, negative feelings will follow but if you act possitive positive feelings will follow. All in all the best thing to do is to leave it on Gods hands but this goes back to trusting God and thus I have created a paradox by accident…

  28. Tim Bajema Avatar

    Oh and David, if ya ever need anything wheather it be a hug a high five or someone to talk to I'm allways just down the hall. I love ya very much your a wonderful man Dave!!!!

  29. David Schell Avatar

    Thanks, Tim… that means a lot 🙂

  30. Jaye Beatty Avatar

    Would disappointment or unmet expectations be a better word? i.e. I thought "this" but "that" is what happened, or didn't happen? It brings an offense and a withdrawal of openness and trust. Whether you call it forgiveness or release, you are changing your understanding and reaction to the situation/person that you feel is responsible for your security, "happiness", etc.. and realizing that even though painful, the hard things can be good for us, too. We want to think that only nice, easy, pleasant things are good for us…but we are shallow and spoiled until we learn to suffer a little and change our perspective to a view that includes other people's needs and desires and weaknesses as well. I think it's not that you "forgive" God, but you let him in again, you trust Him again and open up to him again.

  31. Mirasol Jennings Avatar
    Mirasol Jennings

    Invaluable blog post . Incidentally , if someone wants a SBA 355 , my family edited a blank version here

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