He purifies you from all unrighteousness. He invests in you—fully. There is no hint of stinginess. We make that move toward the Lord with our confession, and he takes it from there. He is committed to us for the long haul. You are forgiven by a faithful and just God. You are purified by a Father who will not waver in his dedication to making you righteous.
Over the past year, I’ve observed that my son becomes panicky after he asks for forgiveness. If you don’t immediately assure him that you forgive him, he gets upset. He quickly becomes distressed and cries out, “You don’t forgive me!”
I do find it endearing that children are much more open about their emotions compared to adults. When my son feels this hard emotion, he expresses it openly and in an impassioned way. As best as I can put words to the state of his little heart in these moments, his cry is “Are we okay? Are we okay?” When you have sinned and ask for forgiveness, the reality is you are indebted to the other person. The relationship is vulnerable at that moment because of your offense. You are at their mercy. And even at five years old, my son can sense that vulnerability, and he wants reassurance that all is okay between us.
I can certainly relate to the distress he is feeling, though as an adult it doesn’t tumble out of me in a frantic manner. It is an uncomfortable feeling to know you have done harm to a relationship. The time between your confession and the other person extending forgiveness is also quite uncomfortable. And sometimes we do have to wait. Sometimes it’s because the person is not ready to forgive; they explain that they need more time. Sometimes the person might just be so angry that even offering three words of grace, “I forgive you,” is too high of a wall to climb; it just seems impossible given how they’re feeling. Or sometimes someone may even decide to be stingy and withhold forgiveness for longer periods of time. They relish the power that it affords them to keep the other person in their debt.
None of these are advisable responses, of course, and if we were having a conversation together, I’d want to consider how to move toward a gracious response when someone is in your debt! But these reactions are common and don’t surprise us. The problem is that we can start to think that maybe God is like us.
Does God, like us, struggle to extend forgiveness when we ask him?
Does he get caught up in his anger, like we do, and withdraw from us?