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The Unfairness of it All

There are reasons so many of us struggle to “forgive” a God who seems to have wronged us. The life he gave us isn’t fair. Helpless children suffer for their parents’ mistakes. Some who work hard are cut down prematurely by accident or disease. Others who hardly work at all inherit the wealth of someone else’s labor.

People of faith seem as subject to the luck of the draw as the weekend gambler. As if by a random dealing of the cards, some are born into wealth and influence. Others start their journey with weak bodies, troubled families, and economic hardship.

Is it any wonder that some of us have had a struggle “forgiving God” even though none of us really believe that “feeling wronged” is the same as believing that God could actually do wrong.

Again, I appreciate so much the way you have been commenting on this important subject. We’re learning from one another as we make it our goal to better understand the life-changing wisdom of the Bible. So let’s take a closer look at the unfairness that keeps showing up in our struggle to make peace with God.

The burden of wisdom
Solomon, wise as he was, observed long ago that life on earth fails the fairness test. In his later years he wrote, “I returned and saw under the sun that-the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl. 9:11).

An R-rated insight
For as long as possible we try to shield our children from the naked injustices Solomon wrote about. We talk to them about the wisdom of hard work and good choices. We teach our little ones that good things happen to good people and that bad things happen to bad people. But in reflective moments, we know that the rules we teach only work for some of the people, some of the time.

The logic of irreverence
Our suspicions, if true, lead to uneasy thoughts. If life is not fair, maybe God is not fair. After all, if God is all powerful he could have intervened.

But what if we let this logic play out? What if God stepped in every time anyone chose to do something that would hurt someone else? Wouldn’t we all lose our freedom in the process? Wouldn’t we lose our humanity? Our will? Our opportunity to trust God? Wouldn’t he would be constantly stepping in to block, restrict, and restrain us? We would be like animals, muzzled and chained so that we couldn’t do any harm.

Instead God gave us enough freedom to help or hurt one another. He gave us the ability to believe, or not to believe, that he will ultimately hold us accountable. He gave us the capacity to love and to hate– with consequences that sometimes match our behavior– but just inconsistently enough to let us gamble on the odds of getting caught.

Then he did the most amazing thing of all. God, himself, shouldered the price of our freedom. In the ultimate act of unfairness, the Father of heaven, sent his innocent Son into the world to pay for sins that together they allowed– but never caused. As the Son suffered the torment of the worst imaginable physical and spiritual pain, the Father in heaven must have suffered just as much. Together they gave us a fulfillment of a mysteriously terrible event that the prophet Isaiah had anticipated. Hundreds of years before Jesus arrived, the prophet said, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:3-6).

Yes, life is unfair. Life is unjust. It is at the same time wonderful and awful. But, for now, would we have it any other way? Would we want it without our freedom? Would we want it without a perfectly good God who loved us enough to bear the immeasurable weight of every horrific evil ever committed– to give us a chance to trust him?

What do you think? I have one more thought that I’m planning to post tomorrow. But I’d like to know whether you agree that what happened on an executioners cross almost 2000 years ago shows how intimately involved our God is in the unfairnesses of life? By the way, today’s the day I’m scheduled to talk to a group of pastors about the problem of marital abuse— that causes so many women and children to taste first hand the shattered hopes and dreams of a good life gone bad.

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10 Responses to “The Unfairness of it All”

  1. kirkiam says:

    Our hope is not here on earth but in the Kingdom to come. We are promised a place beyond our understanding, with blessings eternal.

    Our job here is to serve, to make known the good news, not to worry about our own lives.

    Keep looking up, it won’t be long.


  2. zionscornerstone says:

    I don’t feel free much of the time. I feel like I’m restricted to doing what is right much of the time. When I feel like doing wrong I get sick and feel ever distant from Jesus and it chases me back to him in my thoughts. So I feel like a slave to righteousness. On the downward side of things I’m in a stagnant place in my life where I can’t even make the simplest of decisions. My biggest problem is I’m a spoiled brat that wants his way a lot of the time. Anyway, thankyou all for your intresting thoughts and encouraging words. Thankyou Mart for the Isaiah scipture. It’s one of my favorites. May God give us hearts for others and give us the grace and stregnth to put their needs before our own God knows I need to do that. Awesome kirk you are close to Christ!

  3. Chuck Franke says:

    How blessed we are, no matter what our circumstances. We have the heritage of thousands and thousands of wise people, including you Mart, to learn from, let alone the authors of the Bible who received inspiration from God Himself. To make this personal, they have all worked together to help me see reality; to understand that God is with me no matter what choices other people take; no matter what choices I make. I can trust that He is there. His forgiveness is there for us all. If I am ruined, He is there. If I am enriched, He is there. God and I can enjoy life and death together. I stand on a firm foundation of thought, sacrifice, action, conviction, and providence handed to me by Christ, my ancestors and my colleagues in Christ. Even though the storm of world and local affairs rage around me, I will not be washed away. Of course, the day is just beginning but what a wonderful way to start.

  4. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Mart I have been praying for you, and each one God will be speaking too through you.
    I believe enjoying life is like every thing, i have a choice, i believe one of the keys to enjoy what ever comes my way is to be fullfilling my purpose God has established for me.
    I believe other than our main purpose of letting God save others through us, the Lord has several things He desires to do through us.
    I believe it is when for what ever reason we are not doing these things we find life unfair.
    God asks us through David to rejoice and be glad, today is the day God has made for you.
    The Lord tells us how to accomplish this in Romans 8 : 28, if we Love the Lord, all things, every thing will work out for good.
    I believe in giving we can enjoy life, the opposite of the worlds way of taking, God not only loves a cheerful giver, but God promises us we can never out give God.
    Luke 6 ; 38,Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
    Disasters as we call them must be a part of our lives, asking the Holy Spirit for help, and excepting His way is the way i have enjoyed the majority of my life.

  5. estuardo says:

    I agree, and wouldn’t want it any other way, but…

    It would be nice to have the tangible support, or at least validation, that others have wronged you, and you are understood why you’re angry, wanting justice, or at least have someone who will empathize with you (and to not have it come with a $$ per hour counseling fee).

    Yes, life is hard, how else will we learn? You stick your hand on a hot stove, you get burned. And you don’t do it again. But it would be nice if someone would help care for the wound, whether you created it or not; not to enable, but to comfort.

    In my case, it would be nice to know that it wasn’t my fault I got sexually abused, in spite of my naivete at the time. I fell for the guys cunning, deceitful lure, when I was desperate for someone to love me. Now, I’m looked at as a fool, and BTW, I get told to get over it!

    All I ask for is the comfort we are called to give in the time of someones sorrow!

    Thanks for listening.

  6. goggbeenthinking says:

    That’s the irony and hypocrisy of our lives, of human kind. That’s why people stray from God. We exclaim, life is unfair, therefore, the God who can control all, is also unfair. Why doesn’t He take control. But then when God does take control, we whine, that He’s taking too much control, and we’re losing our freedom and becoming slaves to God. We are spoiled brats.

    So why do we need to forgive God? We are the ones that can’t choose what we want. We are the ones that don’t even know what we need. Again I stand, it is wrong to think we can forgive God. Contrary to human thinking, we always need to ask God for forgiveness.

    Thank you for bravely pursuing this topic. I missed a few days in between it appears. I’ll have to go back and read it.

    Sometimes I’m strengthened by your words. Sometimes my disagreement with your words stregthens me. Either way, I like discussing spiritual issues, that speak of our great Lord Jesus Christ.

  7. bought1 says:

    Let’s start with the statement “life is not fair”. Fair according to who? is my next thought. Hmmm.. cool. Where can I go with this? Why don’t you all just make me king and be done with it? Let me have all my wishes and wants and everything go my way all the time. Sound familiar? Sound infantile?? Sounds to me like my (self-centered) flesh talking. What “I” want.
    The Bible claims “Jesus is LORD”. Sovereign G-d. LORD of all. Is this true? Is He Lord of the telescopic and the microscopic? The macro and the micro? LORD of yesterday, today and tomorrow? LORD of heaven and of earth? Does He know every thought that passes through my head? Is He afflicted in our afflictions? Is He the man of sorrows? Is He LORD of my suffering,shame and sorrow? Does He have a sovereign purpose in our suffering? Does pain serve a purpose? Are tears good for my eyes and do they give me a clearer vision?
    David said “it is good for me that I have been afflicted”. Why? Is trouble part of G-ds provision for me?
    Do my scars and stripes somehow glorify Him? Pray for one another that ye may be healed.

  8. Mart De Haan says:

    bought1, I think you make some good points. Since you quote a Psalm of David, I’m assuming you would be patient with him in his many other expressions of fear, confusion, and even wondering if he’s been abandoned by God–before coming back time after time to sense God’s presence in his darkness.

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