“That’s not fair!” It is the most disconcerting phrase heard in our house throughout the year, the greatest source of contention and offense, and the greatest challenge of my parenting to date. With four children, I have been faced with the daily responsibility of acting as judge and jury, to hear cases, to settle disputes, and to determine fairness. When my feeble attempts to establish justice fail, I throw my hands up in the air and cry out to God for help and sanity. “Life’s not fair” has been my consistent reply, but never satisfies the endless pursuit for fairness and always leaves my kids and myself wondering, “Why isn’t life fair?”
Fair, just, equitable, impartial, and consistent with moral right. In spite of my good intentions, I have fallen short of the mark on numerous occasions. As a parent who sets the standards, my children expect me to be fair, but as hard as I try, I can’t always be fair because of a lack of wisdom or the circumstances often prevent me from doing so. I often worry that if I don’t make everything fair, then they will doubt that I love them equally and one will feel less loved, which is certainly not true. My relentless efforts to make everything fair result in my constant frustration. I have thought that God must feel the same way about His kids who complain that life isn’t fair, think they are less loved by Him, and even accuse Him who sets the standards of justice of not being fair Himself. I have wondered how God who is just and sovereign could be in control of a world that has not been fair since the fall of man.
While we all know that life is not always fair, the Bible says that God is always good, fair, just, impartial, and consistent with moral right. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He loves us all the same, none more, none less and he acts accordingly. He is not at His wit’s end with frustration to make all things fair so He can prove He loves us all equally. Then I realized that God, who is able to make all things fair and equal, might not want to make all things fair for our own good. He who makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, inevitably makes all things fair and just in the long run according to the big picture, whether we see it or not. So, can life not being fair be a good thing?
Even though I always struggle with the guilt and grief of seeing my children deal with the reality of unfairness, I have come to the conclusion that it is not always a bad thing, but most often works out to their advantage in one way or another. In fact, it is necessary for their spiritual growth and development of their godly character. For example, if I give each of my children a piece of cake, and one of them has a very large piece and the other has a very small piece, the first thing they will notice for obvious reasons is that it isn’t fair. The one who has more is thrilled and digs in. The one who has less has questions. “Why did he get more than me?” He may question my intentions. He may accuse me of not being fair, or loving his brother more than him. He may think He has done something wrong not to deserve a bigger piece, or that his brother is somehow better than him.
He is faced with the choice of being offended with me the giver, or with his brother the recipient of the bigger piece, or he can receive what He has been given with thankfulness trusting my love for him and my reasons for giving him the smaller piece. He may not understand that his brother didn’t have a piece yesterday like he did, or that he already had too much sugar that day and it was for his own good, or that he was going to a birthday party later that day and would have more cake unlike his brother. He has the opportunity to rejoice with his brother or feel sorry for himself. He also has the opportunity to grow in compassion for others who have experienced receiving less. His brother is also given the opportunity to share from the more he has been given to those who have less.
When I look back over the past year, I am tempted to compare my year to others. I can look at all that I perceive as negative and compare it to all I see as positive in others lives and start to complain that life isn’t fair. I can start to ask questions about my smaller piece of cake, like “Why does my husband have to work 15 hours a day and her husband is always home? Why is my car falling apart and they are driving a brand new car? Why do they get to go on two vacations in the last four months and we haven’t had one in a year?” If I’m not careful I can start to become jealous and offended with others and even God Himself. I could start to ask Him, “Do you love them more? Are they more deserving than me?” If I was wise I would stop to think and thank God that my husband has a job in a lousy economy and have compassion on those who have lost their jobs. I would be thankful that we have not just one car that works, but two cars. I would be thankful for any vacation we have been able to take and trust God to meet our needs for a reprieve in the near future.
The reality is that God is always fair and just in His dealings with us whether we perceive them as fair or not. It basically comes down to knowing His heart and trusting His love for us when life doesn’t seem to be fair. When we are confident in His love and provision for us, we are free from comparing our lives to others. We are free from striving to make sure we get our fair share. We are free to rejoice when others get more than their fair share. We are able to understand that we have much to gain from an unfair world. May we all begin the new year with a fresh perspective that He has made us all equal partakers of His grace, His redemption, His forgiveness, His riches, His inheritance, and His power through the sacrifice of His perfect Son who suffered obedience to the death on a cross to take the punishment that we deserved for our sin. Thank you, Jesus. Now that’s really not fair.