How often have you felt life is unfair? It happens in simple ways. Bill and his sister Tanya were having dinner at home and Tanya was not happy: Last night he got a bigger piece of pie than me. And tonight his share of the cake is bigger than mine, she pouted. It’s so unfair!
Although children are taught to share, learn to share their toys, their food, their space and their time, early in our lives we are taught to live by a standard of fairness. Stuff like this happens all the time—we get a bad deal. And as we grow up, we discover that life is not always fair.
We learn that people do not share equally, and that starts very early in life living with our brothers and sisters, and into the school playground. And into the rest of life. We’ve all been taught since childhood that things in life should be fair. At home, maybe you got in trouble for doing something that you never did, and you were punished unfairly. Maybe at school, everyone in your class cheated on a test and got an A, but you refused and got a B.
Dealing With Unfairness In Life
There are countless things that happen in our lives that are unfair, but it’s what we do after that really matters. If we think life is unfair to us all day long, we will start to only see the bad things in life and just generally hate life. It’s much better to think optimistically, to look at the good things instead of the bad. Unless we accept the fact that life is going to be unfair, we grow a huge chip on our shoulder, seeing all of life as unfair. I know a few people like that. Everything they do and say is coloured by these negative thoughts.
I say again that life is often unfair. But what can we do about it? You can say, I’m a good person who has never hurt anyone. Life should go smoothly for me. In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield and miraculous things happen. You may have seen the movie. But the miracles happen for others, not for himself.
He becomes exasperated and says, “I have done everything I’ve been asked to do. I didn’t understand it, but I did it. And I haven’t once asked What’s in it for me?” Then his friend Joe asks, “What are you saying Ray?” And he replies, “I am asking what’s in it for me.” I think a lot of us think that way: I work hard and sacrifice my own pleasures to help my family, and everything goes against me.
When Life Goes From Bad To Worse
Things happen each day over which we have no control. We all carry a sense of justice and of being wronged in so many ways, yet, does this sensibility really help us in the long run? I am not so sure. Life has a way of suddenly altering its course down hard paths, leaving us hurt, confused, and weak, with lots of unanswered questions.
In his wonderful book Disappointment with God (which I highly recommend), Philip Yancey tells the story of Douglas who had many disappointments and unfairness in his life. His troubles started when his wife discovered a lump in her breast. Surgeons removed the breast but two years later surgeons found the cancer had spread to her lungs. Douglas took over the care of their family and other household responsibilities, as his wife battled with the effects of chemotherapy. She lost her hair, couldn’t keep food down, and she was in a bad way.
One night, he was driving with his sick wife and their 12-year-old daughter in the car down a city street when a drunk driver swerved over the road and hit them head on. His wife was shaken but not badly hurt, his daughter had facial cuts and a broken arm, but the worst part was his head damage—he had a massive blow to the head. Before that day he never had a headache in his life.
But his vision was affected—he had double vision, couldn’t walk without someone helping him, and he had to give up work. Yet Douglas told Philip Yancey he had no disappointment with God over the accident. His faith in God was still strong. And here’s what he told Yancey: “I learned first through my wife’s illness and then through this car accident, not to confuse God with life”.
Getting God’s Perspective
That is a profound statement: “I learned not to confuse God with life”. He refused to let the unfairness of life push him away from God. And that’s my thought to leave with you. It’s not God’s fault that things go wrong. We do live in an unfair world—you know that. No-one is exempt from disappointment, sadness or tragedy. The Bible reminds me God is faithful and just and fair.
Although you cannot control the circumstances in your life, you can control your reaction to them.
Do you believe in a fair and loving God? Don’t blame him for what happens to you. We do live in a world where life is often unfair. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you are going to have trouble.” Jesus had a realistic perspective about life. That’s why he said in this world you’re going to have trouble.
If you don’t get God’s perspective on this, you’re going to go through life, cynical and bitter and resentful and disillusioned, saying, Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to my family? Although you cannot control the circumstances in your life, you can control your reaction to them. Allow him to take control of your life and ask him each day for his help and guidance. He will help you make sense of life, even if you think it’s unfair.