Why me Lord? I suspect that most of us have cried out to God with that question. And I would also guess that ninety-nine percent of the time we are asking God why some trial or affliction has come our way that we feel is undeserved.
The same question has been asked throughout history. “Why me Lord? Why me?”
A song by Kris Kristofferson cycled up on the iPod today and reminded me of a better perspective. I have loved Kristofferson’s song “Why Me?” since I was a young believer and, if you do the math, you realize that I am not so young a believer anymore. The truth is I am still trying to apply the wisdom of these lyrics.
Why me Lord, what have I ever done
To deserve even one
Of the pleasures I've known
Tell me Lord, what did I ever done
That was worth loving you
Or the kindness you've shown
So true. What have I done to deserve even one of His blessings? I did not deserve forgiveness. That was a gift of grace from a loving God. I did not deserve to be born in the United States into incredible comfort, religious freedom and opportunity. I did not deserve to be born healthy and semi-intelligent when others live with chronic affliction and mental illness. Those things were blessings that I received without complaining to my Creator.
The why me Lord question we so often ask should have an entirely different focus.
Why me Lord? What have I done to deserve your blessing?
It is true that some seem to suffer a disproportionate amount of affliction and difficulty. It doesn’t seem fair. The theology that faithful Christians will experience nonstop prosperity, perfect health and green lights at every intersection is a lie from the pit of Hell. Suffering is a part of the process that God uses to refine our faith and ultimately to glorify Him.
My high school basketball coach was a winner and a great teacher. I remember Coach Tom Cuppett yelling at me. A lot. It seemed I could never do anything right. We would run a play and the whistle would blow. “Burchett….what are you doing?” Then he would grab me and the other forwards and walk us through what was supposed to happen. After my senior season Coach Cuppett called me in to his office.
“I have to let you in on something. Remember how I always yelled at you and walked you through the plays?” He asked.
I responded with a smile. “Pretty hard to forget that you can’t do anything right.”
“The truth is that most of the time it was Jimmy (not real name) who messed up and not you. He couldn’t take the criticism and you could. So I yelled at you and then grabbed him and walked him through the plays with you so he would learn without losing his confidence.”
“It would have been nice to know why I was the target so often.”
“I couldn’t tell you at the time. But I trusted you to keep going. And you did. Your ability to handle adversity made him and our team better.”
The lesson never left. I trusted a good coach and accepted what I had to endure to achieve our goal of winning. Later I found out that I had gained honor is his eyes by trusting him even when things didn’t seem “fair”. How much more so can I trust a God who loved me enough to offer grace when I was completely without merit? What if that trial is given to me because God deems me able to remain steadfast and through that faithfulness He will be glorified? What if I get called into God’s office someday and find out that He gave me the gift of trials to reflect His glory and now my rewards will far exceed that temporary pain? If I can trust an earthly coach then I can certainly trust my Heavenly Father with all of me.
Kristofferson writes about what many of us regret.
Lord help me Jesus, I've wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
Now that I know that I've need you so
Help me Jesus, my soul's in your hand
That is the amazing thing about our God of redemption and second chances. It is never too late to start trusting and living in His grace. It starts with believing your real identity. Henri Nouwen says it well.
“You can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity, because your identity is that you are the beloved. Long before your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your church, or any people touched you in a loving as well as in a wounding way-long before you were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else-that voice has been there always. "I have loved you with an everlasting love." That love is there before you were born and will be there after you die.”
Paul wrote this to the Church at Ephesus.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1, NLT)
Believing that makes it possible to ask “why me” in a very different way.