Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:1-11
The women’s hand was not even completely in the air before the question came bursting forth, and the tears welled in her eyes. “How can we let go of wanting to hear we are forgiven, when we’ve begged for it, but the other person is not willing to extend it. As a human person, I want to hear those words not from God but from the other person.” My heart truly ached as I heard in her voice the depth of her pain and her desperation for an answer.
This exchange came during a recent women’s retreat that I offer on the peace of forgiveness. Although I wished with my all my breaking heart to lavish her with a concrete, “it will be fixed by morning,” response, I knew that was not how this forgiveness thing worked. Nor is our human idea of how things should “play through”, always in line with how God, in His infinite wisdom (Romans 11:33), plans to work things out.
While nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37), and He could bring about what she so felt was needed to be free of this pain, it would most likely not happen in that way. But why?
God’s ways, as Isaiah taught us so long ago, are not our ways. More importantly, those ways are so above our thinking; we could not even begin to comprehend the “why” of how things are being worked out in our lives, but we are called to believe they are in the hands of God (Psalm 31:15).
This is where faith enters in. Faith believes that God cares so deeply for us and our well-being, that whatever He is allowing in the present circumstances of our lives, He will surely use for our good (Romans 8:28).
As for this sweet woman, along with these powerful and I believe comforting words from Isaiah, I encouraged her to focus on her relationship with God. I prayed that as she discovered He who is “merciful and generous in forgiving”, she would also find that His sustaining and healing grace is enough for her (2 Cor 12:9); and regardless of what that other party ever did or said, she would have a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:6). For truly, His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways not ours, but higher, so much higher!