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.