Imagine in your mind that you are a young girl with the hopes of one day getting married, having children, and being part of a family that loves God and wants to serve others. And as you grow up you do everything right, or almost what you think is right (Romans 3:23). And you look forward to the day when you will marry the wonderful man of your dreams.
And in that moment, your mind is filled with having children and living together as a family. Your parents will be so proud of you because they will become grandparents!! And as for you – you just love children! It would be so wonderful! But as time goes by you find out you can’t have kids. You find out it is humanly impossible because of physical abnormalities.
So you think to yourself, something must be wrong and so you look for ways to fix your dream. But with time, and spending a lot of money to make it happen, you find out you can’t! And in the end it hits you: “life doesn’t seem fair”. And you live with this reality day after day with thoughts that life doesn’t seem fair. You will never give birth to a child.
Now I am going to tell you about my own personal experience. But I want to do it with the hope that it might help you with the pains of life that might not seem fair to you. We deal with situations all through out life and we adapt to them in different ways. I being a disciple of Christ want to do what Jesus wants me to do and live my life for Him. 1 Peter 2:21 says that I being his disciple should suffer like he did. But at the same time, I once thought my life would get a lot better instead of worse. It was said to me at the start that “God has a wonderful plan for your life”, so I thought things would get better. I no longer would be a slave to sin. And I believed that would take care of my fear of going to hell and being separated from God eternally. So these thoughts of hell and being separated from God weren’t even on my radar.
But I will give you some examples of when life doesn’t seem fair.
Imagine that you go to serve God in another country as a missionary to preach the Good News and despite all the terrible problems you have to endure to get there, you finally arrive! And being there is somehow what you had always dreamed it would be. You had made it there despite all you went through and as time goes by, you serve others and see your talents put to good use by God. You are glad inside for the results you see and the things God has accomplished through you.
Part of your ministry involves singing with your wife in all different kinds of venues. And you get to record music together and hear yourself sing on the radio. Plus you get to paint and be involved in cultural centers and other events because of your art. You even get to do research on matters that really mean a lot to you and others. But then one day, out of the blue, you find out you have brain cancer. And in the drop of a hat, all of those things you did before come to a screeching halt. After the operation you find out you can’t sing anymore, play acoustical instruments anymore, record anymore, and paint like you use to anymore. Almost everything that you did before is gone, affected by the surgery that is done because of your brain tumor! You are basically paralyzed on your right side from the operation. And the pain of knowing all this is just incredible to handle as you think to yourself, “What did I do to deserve this?” Life doesn’t seem fair!
What comes to my mind is the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. En Genesis 37:3 we read that his father Israel (Jacob) loved him very much, more than his older brothers and made him a robe of many colors. Then in Genesis 37:5-28 we read Joseph had a dream where his brothers would be his servants. They did not like this dream, nor the way their father treated Joseph and with this jealousy put him in a pit with the thoughts of killing him. (Genesis 37:28).
Then a caravan of Ishmaelites passed by and bought him for 20 shekels of silver from the brothers and took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28). Later, en Genesis 39:4, we learn that Joseph worked for Potiphar as his overseer and was there until Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and he was thrown into prison (Genesis 39:20). And while he was in prison, he interpreted two prisoner’s dreams (Genesis 40) and the pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:1-36). Then after interpreting the pharaoh’s dream, he was set free. He was 30 years old when he got out (Genesis 41:46). Some 23 years had passed without seeing his father Israel (Jacob), who had believed him to be dead (Genesis 37:35). Thinking about the 23 years and the separation that occurred between them is just hard to imagine!
Was this fair what happened to Joseph? Did he actually do anything to deserve the way he was treated? No! He suffered for 23 years and so did his father, thinking he was dead. And during that time in prison, he must have thought to himself, “life just doesn’t seem fair”.
When you think that life isn’t fair because you didn’t deserve what happened, that itself can control your feelings, mind, and spirit. It can become a temptation.You can let it control you and with time, it becomes like cancer. It grows and grows without stopping.
You can see its power in your life. It dominates so much of how you think, feel, and respond to things around you. It becomes like a monkey on your back that never lets go and you will never be free from its grip in your life.
And in truth, the issue really isn’t one of “life isn’t fair” but rather “God isn’t fair”. And this itself is hard for a Christian to admit. Christians know that God is in charge of everything. There is nothing that happens in life that He isn’t aware of. He is sovereign (Job 42:2; Psalm 93:1; Isaiah 45:9-10). According to Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, sovereignty means supreme or absolute in its autonomy. It is free from external control. God decided everything in his Divine Sovereignty. But also what He decided falls in line with His character. His character is love. 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love (agapē)”.
Agapē has been described by C.S. Lewis as, “a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other.” (1) As Dr. Norman Geisler states it, “Humans are totally free to accept or reject God, being under no coercion from him. [But] on the other hand, since God is all knowing, he is in sovereign control of the whole universe because he knew exactly what everyone would choose to do, even before the world.” (2)
So in analyzing it from a human perspective in what appears to be “not fair”, God in his love allows the situation for a purpose and it is done out of love. Examples of this are abundant in the Bible aside from the life of Joseph. Another case that could be investigated is the life of Job, chapters 1- 42.
I have learned I have to let it go, knowing I don’t want it to control me and ruin my life. Joseph himself could have been bitter and said while he was in prison, “this just isn’t fair!” He could have let the whole situation just consume his thoughts and his attitudes. Obviously he was in prison suffering there for something he did not do! He didn’t deserve it! But Hebrews 11:22 says, “By faith, Joseph at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones”. What is clear here was that “he was free”, and the Israelites, who would be in bondage to the Egyptians, would be free as well through their Exodus with Moses.
He didn’t let those thoughts control and consume him. He knew there must be a reason why he was there in this situation of suffering and pain. God had allowed it just like he allowed Job to be tried (Job 1:12). But he went through it all knowing that God would have the last say. God is our Savior (Psalm 68:20; Isaiah 43:11) and God is love (1 John 4:8).
We go through things in life that just don’t seem to be fair and they can control us. We already know our soul will live forever! (Genesis 2:7). So we shouldn’t let these things control us! We should instead give them to God (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He allowed situations to come into our lives for a reason (2 Timothy 2:12). They can teach us something about God that we probably never would have learned any other way. And when we go through these things, it is normal to get upset about them and think to ourselves “this is just not fair”. But with time, we should not let them control us! We should let God control our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. John 8:34 -36 says, “So Jesus answered them “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son (Jesus) sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Sometimes being free means having to let what is controlling us go. We cannot let these things take control of us and be our master. Forgiveness can sometime be involved. Forgiveness of a person involves letting the injustice go and not letting it control you any longer. We see this with Joseph and his brothers. We see this with Potiphar’s wife. Joseph did not hold his brothers as “unpardonable” for the fact that they had sold him into slavery. He was “free” from what they had done to him. Nor was he a “slave bound forever” for what Potiphar’s wife did (Genesis 39:20). But despite this bad outcome, we read in Genesis 39:21 that the Lord was with Joseph all the way. This reminds me of what Hebrews 13:5 says, “that I (God) will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us in these moments when we feel like “it’s not fair” what others have done to us.
When we are hurt by another, we normally want justice to be served. We want our “pound of flesh”. But this does not free us from our captivity to sin. Instead, we are consumed by it. It can overcome us and we become controlled by our feelings and emotions. We become slaves to our own passions and desires for justice to be served.
If God were truly just and showed no mercy or grace for our sin and our disobedience, we would have no hope to go on! But because He loved us (agapē) so much and showed us grace in sending His only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sin on the cross (John 3:16) we are declared righteous and are not condemned (Romans 8:1). He died for us not we for him. He was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:26-28). Talk about “it’s not fair!”. But because Jesus paid the price for our sin with his own blood (Hebrews 9:22, 28), we have now have been made free. God has shown us his mercy and grace. He gave us what we don’t deserve. We are free indeed!(John 8:36; Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:1). Free from the eternal bondage of sin!
The freedom God has given me – with the things that I have had to deal with personally, is incredible. These particular things no longer have control of me because I have given them to God. I am now truly free. It serves me as an example of this truth: Jesus has set me free!
Ed. David Basinger and Randall Basinger, Prede
stination and Free Will, IVP, 1986.