Monday, December 10, 2012

Forgiving God

I have had a lot of thoughts rolling around my head lately. It seems our family has been through one stressful event after another for, well, years really. Right now I am in the burned-out, apathetic, moody stage that usually follows such an event. I mostly feel nothing. But occasionally....
You see, the thing about going through a hard time is that you feel things. Pain, frustration, anxiety, and, often, anger.

At church today we had a great talk. The speaker asked "What causes misery?" He divided it into two categories 1. The things we do to ourselves and 2. The things beyond our control. He then explained that when bad things happen it is in our nature to ask "Who do I blame?"

This is where I have been. The thing is, I know that our recent struggles were beyond our control. So who’s to blame? I could blame the Army, the real estate market, the economy, etc. But ultimately it comes down to one source: Heavenly Father. I mean, he is in charge of everything, right?

But the thought of blaming God for anything is just...wrong! How could a person do that?!

Of course, I know plenty of people do that. People from every religion and nation and class have blamed God for their suffering at some point or another. This blaming potentially leads to personal apostasy when the injured turn their backs to God.

So, why does it happen? For one thing it feels like a breach of trust. We trust God to take care of us and it seems like he didn't. That trust might have been blind and naive or it could have developed from years of sincere effort for a meaningful relationship.

The natural reaction when someone hurts you is to distance yourself from them. In October 2012 General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen warned, "Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view."

What should we do? How do we get past this perceived hurt? How do we turn to the person who hurt us and ask them for help?

Some pretty unpleasant things come to mind, like swallowing our pride. Humbling ourselves. Submitting to the will of the Father. King Benjamin said it very well.

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. Mosiah 3:19"

Did you catch that? "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him."

Nice. Sounds like a big ole party, huh. I mean, you don't exactly inflict people with happiness do you?

If this was a regular person we were talking about we might call this a toxic relationship. Everyone who knew our situation would say "He did what?! Get away! Sue! Report him to the authorities!" That's not exactly the Lord's counsel though, is it?

"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. Doctrine and Covenants 64:9"

If you have paid any attention in church you know that forgiveness is not about the other person, it's about you. It's about letting go of the hurt and the anger and the blame. It's about restoring the relationship you had before.

To say that God needs to be forgiven implies that he did something wrong. That God made a mistake. That he sinned. But that isn't exactly true is it? There are plenty of times when we can feel like a person has wronged us but they really didn't do anything that was actually wrong.

For example, my almost-3-year-old has discovered that he likes candy. He wants candy all the time, day and night. When I say "No", he sometimes gets very upset with me. He cries, he yells, he frowns and pouts. He might even take a swing at me.

Did I do something wrong? No. His feelings are real but they are caused by his limited understanding of life. He doesn't know that his body needs nutritious food to grow and be healthy. He doesn't know that I am acting out of love. All he knows is that things didn't go the way he wanted.

He now has a choice to make; he can hate me forever or forgive me. The change will be his, not mine. He must learn that I am not being mean by denying him the thing he wants. If he forgives me and continues to trust me, he will be fed and cared for and grow healthy and strong. If not, he can refuse to eat anything I offer him and starve. He can run away and try to make it on his own. Not many jobs for 3-year-olds out there.

And, so, he forgives me. He lets go of that momentary disappointment and moves on. He accepts that he actually has a pretty good life. He even gets candy from time to time.

Am I that forgiving? Am I willing to put aside my hurt? Can I let it go?

I think so. I know I have in the past. Sometimes that forgiveness is instantaneous. Sometimes it is a process. I can be stubborn or I can be humble. Unlike other relationships, Heavenly Father can actually help me with this process. He wants to help me. All I have to do is let him.


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