Winston was having a very bad day. He was sick in bed when his boss called and told him that he had better get in to work with a doctor’s release, or he would lose his job. On the way to work, Winston had a flat tire, and while he was struggling in the pouring rain to change the tire, he slipped and ripped his trousers.
Winston put down the tire iron and looked up to the clouds. “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve all this?”
Of course, we know that God wasn’t doing all those terrible things to Winston. It’s just that we live in an imperfect world, and, as the bumper sticker reads, “Stuff happens.”
Or, do we believe that God is not punishing us? A few years ago, I was filling in as the teacher in our adult Sunday School class, and I asked who believed that God punishes us in the here and now for our sinful actions. Not one person raised a hand. But when I asked, “Who has ever said, ‘Why me, Lord?’”, nearly everybody nodded their heads and raised their hands with embarrassed chuckles and sheepish grins.
Yup, we’ve all said it, one time or another. And we’ve searched our recent behavior for some inappropriate thing we’ve done, or said, or thought, trying to find a reason why we should suffer so.
“Why me, Lord?”
“What have I done to deserve this?”
“Why is God punishing me?”
I tend to be especially hard on myself. I have no trouble believing that God would forgive others, but I have a hard time believing tht God would forgive me. In the Greek Orthodox church, there is a part of the confession of sins that goes something like, “Though I am the chief of sinners….” I am the chief of sinners because I know all my thoughts, whereas, with others, I only know some of their actions.
But, indeed, God has forgiven me, chief of sinners though I be.
Over and over in the Bible, we read of God’s forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, [God] who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1: 9) “In [God] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8) “[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14) “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (James 5:15). (All quotations NRSV)
So, if I believe that God has forgiven my sins and will not punish me by eternally damning me to torture in a fiery hell, as I deserve (I am the chief if sinners, remember.), why would I believe that God would cause me difficulties here on Earth because of the same transgressions? The answer, of course, is that God wouldn’t, and God doesn’t.
So, have no fear of your sin. Do the best you can. And, if you slip up, as we all will slip up, know that God has forgiven you before you even slipped.
Note: This article also appeared in “The Scribe,” the newsletter of Elim Lutheran Church, Volume 63, Issue 8, August 2013, p.8.