When Life’s Not Fair

"The fact is, because of sin, the world we live in will never be fair." by Joyann Dwire

“Don’t you know how inconvenient this is, Lord?” The question summed up my feelings as I watched flames go up the side of my house. The stark honesty of the question caught me by surprise. I was irritated that my day had been interrupted by a lightning strike. Like a five-year-old child, I was stomping my feet and shouting, “It’s not fair!” The adult side of me replied, “Life isn’t fair.”

We don’t like that response as adults any more than we did as children. The fact is, because of sin, the world we live in will never be fair. It’s not fair that a husband left his wife for another woman. Or that the lazy co-worker got the promotion. And then there are the not fairs of school shootings, the tragedy of 9/11 or devastating hurricanes and wildfires.

The disappointments and trials of life can either make or break us. As Christians, we sometimes expect our lives to be smooth sailing. However, a walk through the Bible will show us that even the faithful had interruptions. Noah’s life was interrupted by a request to build an ark. God intruded into Moses’ life with a burning bush and a commission to lead the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

Talk About Unfair

Name any Bible hero, and you will find his or her life disrupted either by disaster or God’s call—and often it’s difficult to tell the difference. Look at Joseph. His own brothers sold him into slavery. He was falsely accused and imprisoned, then forgotten by the cupbearer he had helped in prison. We don’t know how many tears he shed or how many times he shook his fist at God and cried out, “It’s not fair.” Through it all, however, he stayed faithful and eventually ended up in a powerful position that allowed him to save his family from starvation. Joseph acknowledged God’s hand in his life when he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

After that lightning strike on my house, when I refocused my attention on the facts and off of my lost nap, I realized how God had protected us in the storm. There was still the inconvenience of dealing with insurance and contractors, but the fire and damage to the house had been limited. This was a minor disruption in my life, but there was worse to come. A few years later, my mom fell and broke her hip, and I became her caregiver for the next 14 years. There were many times, especially after she had her stroke, that I cried out, “This isn’t fair.”

It’s hard to find joy and contentment in the midst of our trials. God’s grace may seem far off and unavailable, but He offers it freely. It’s there all the time, but when we are in the midst of pain, we close ourselves off to it. There are a few things we can do to reset our hearts and minds to be receptive to what He freely offers.

Know that God is in control

We serve an all-knowing, sovereign God who knew famine was coming in Joseph’s day…and knows the difficulties we will face. Joseph went through years of slavery and imprisonment to arrive in Pharaoh’s court, which is where God wanted him to be.

Remember, God knows how the story ends and how He’s going to take you through your trial so you too can arrive where He needs you to be. By arrive, I don’t mean just physically. The next three steps show us some other arrival zones.

Be willing to learn what God wants you to learn

Joseph did not know how his experences and trials in Egypt would help him later in life. Potiphar, the captain of the guards, trusted Joseph to run his household. Later, he was falsely accused of abusing that privilege and languished in prison, perfecting his discernment all the while, as evident in his ability to interpret the meaning of dreams. The skills he learned prepared him to run the entire nation and for the coming famine. Every trial we go through as Christians has the potential to teach us something we need to know to serve God later in life.

Cut out the pity parties

Who could have blamed him if Joseph had wallowed in self-pity and made plans for revenge on his brothers? Joseph had to let these feelings go so he could be ready to be used by God. That he did so is evidenced in Genesis 42:24. When he saw that his brothers’ hearts had changed, he was moved by love for them and wept. Joseph would have been of no use to his family or to God if he had thrown a big pity party. He chose to obey God and remain faithful no matter the cost, and his family was saved as a result. You’re no different. If you allow bitterness and self-pity to consume you, you waste valuable time and energy on something that can only destroy you in the end.

Make Jesus Lord of your life

Most of all, Joseph had to arrive spiritually. His faith in God certainly carried him through the hard times, but it went deeper than that. He was living in a strange land with strange beliefs. He could have chosen to forget the faith of his fathers and turn to the idols of Egypt. Instead, he continued to worship his God and grow in his faith.

To obey God, no matter the consequence, will always be a life-changing event. The trials will come, just as they did for Joseph. But if you follow his example, your faith in God can encompass every area of your life. Psalm 105:19 says of Joseph that he was tested “till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true” (NIV). The “not fairs” in our lives serve the same purpose. Through the disappointments, the heartbreaks and the disasters, we learn to get to where God needs us to be. 

My experience with caregiving for my mom has also brought me to the place God wants me to be. I am now co-facilitator of our local caregivers’ support group and teach my church’s senior adult Sunday school class.

The journey to the place God wants you to be may be painful. It may feel downright unfair. But once you arrive, you can rejoice and say with Joseph, “And as for you [Satan] you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” 

Joyann Dwire, a writer in Toccoa, GA, is co-facilitator of the Stephens County Caregivers’ Support Group and works with the senior citizens at her church.

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