Years ago, an internet blogger posted a story about the time she, her two children and her husband all came down with a 24-hour stomach virus, and she also had a kidney stone.

She wrote, “Apparently that time in the eighth grade when I tried my very first cigarette and hated it and cried and lay down on the ground and begged God to forgive me but knew that someday he was really going to get his punishment in — well, apparently, he waited until this weekend.”

“There is a God,” she wrote. “And he is vengeful, make no mistake.”

At the top of the blog page the writer had the scripture: “You did it: You changed my wild lament into whirling dance; you ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.” (Psalm 30:11, The Message).

From reading her blog, I don’t think she believed in some sense of Christian karma or divine retribution. She just liked to be funny. Even her whining about her kidney stones had joy and delight in it.

I love that in Christians, the ability to find delight even when you’re doubled over in pain.

It’s all about how you view God.

Supposedly, Joseph Stalin once picked up a live chicken and pulled out its feathers. When he finished, he set the chicken down and walked away, dropping bread crumbs behind him.

To everyone’s surprise, the bird he had just tortured followed Stalin around the room.

“This is the way to rule people,” Stalin said. “If you inflict inordinate pain on them they will follow you for food the rest of their lives.”

That’s how some Christians see God. He’ll feed you, but he’ll also do stuff to you that hurts, and maybe if you’re obedient enough he’ll keep the pain to a minimum.

Probably few would actually admit that’s how they see God, but most of the time you can tell by their uptightness.

Here’s a test I just made up:

How often do you worry about whether or not you’re in/out of God’s will? How guilty do you feel on a regular basis? Is the word “backslide” part of your everyday thought or conversation? Do you think God smiles at you, and if he does, why does he?

Does God bless Christians who sin?

That last one is a trick question. Of course he does because all Christians sin and if he didn’t bless Christians who sin, none of us would get blessed.

That’s not to say sin doesn’t have consequences. If I hit my husband with a frying pan and the police show up, I’m going to get arrested and my name will appear in the newspaper.

But what if I get cancer? What if my child dies or I lose my job or my house burns down? Does that mean God is punishing me for past or present sin in my life? Did the blog writer get a stomach bug and a kidney stone because she smoked a cigarette in eighth grade?

Some Christians think so. Some think God keeps a scorecard and they’re never quite sure where they stand with him and live in constant fear of somehow being out of his will. They’re so uptight and so serious and so, so guilty.

But God is not a bully. He’s not a chicken-plucking dictator. For those who have run to Jesus for forgiveness and mercy, the slate is wiped clean once and for all. No more penalty for sin. No need for fearful seriousness and constant evaluation.

Jesus himself said, “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Friends, he did it: He changed our wild lament into whirling dance, ripped off our black mourning band and decked us with wildflowers.

Is that how you view God?