“It’s not fair!” Have you ever said those words, or had that thought? Most of us have. Maybe you were passed up for a job promotion. Maybe you’re still single, watching all your friends get married. It could be you just heard an awful medical diagnosis, or despite all your prayer and efforts, you are still not able to conceive and give birth.
When we find ourselves in the “It’s not fair” mindset, we need two things. We need a compassionate friend to listen and encourage us. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” The New Testament exhorts us to “comfort one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). The comfort of a Christian friend is God’s gift to us in affliction.
But in those times, we need more than comfort. We need a strong dose of truth. In his book It’s Not Fair, Wayne Mack says, “Compassion is critical when we’re hurting. But compassion alone will not help us move past the emotions that can cloud our thinking.” You see, when we think life isn’t fair, what we are really saying is that God isn’t fair. Somehow, He has dealt us a bad hand, He has treated us as we don’t deserve, He has overlooked us or forgotten us. Instead of these thoughts, what can we do and think on to move away from self-pity? Here are some helpful ideas.
Remember God knows you and is always with you. Psalm 139 is a classic passage on these truths. In verses 1-6 the Psalmist tells us that God knows us so intimately that He knows “when I sit down and when I rise up”, He knows what I am going to say “even before a word is on my tongue.” He starts that Psalm saying that God has “searched me and known me.” Yes, God knows you.
Not only does God know us, He is always with us. Psalm 139:7 goes on to say, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” Even in the darkest part of life, God is with you. He has not abandoned you. In fact, because God is faithful, He is not even able to abandon you. Though the circumstances of your life are not what you hoped for, you can be sure that God knows all about it, all about you, and that He is walking with you through those circumstances.
Recall that God’s love for you is unchanging. It is tempting when we feel life isn’t fair, to question God’s love, saying, “If He really loved me, He wouldn’t have let this happen.” Or “If He really loves me, why is He not answering my prayer?” While our experience may make us feel this way, the clear message of Scripture is that God loves us more than we can imagine or explain, and that His love never fails. Psalm 103:11 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Psalm 136:1 tells us, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” And Paul, in a classic passage in Romans 8:35-39 asks, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” After mentioning many trials of life, he concludes that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rely on the truth that God is good and is working all things for your good and His glory. If God knows everything about me, if He is always with me, if He loves me as no one else does, yet I am still experiencing trouble, pain, and seemingly unfair circumstances, the next thing I might wonder is “what is God doing in all of this?” Though we often don’t have a clear answer to that question, we can return to the truth of 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” The resounding message of Scripture is that God is good. Because that is true, we can have confidence that whatever we are facing is not meant for evil in our lives but is designed by God for our good.
Take for example Joseph. After enduring the scorn of his brothers, being sold into slavery, and being unjustly put in prison in a foreign land, he concluded that though his brothers “meant evil against me, …God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Yes, though circumstances may say otherwise, we can depend on the fact that God is at work no matter what our circumstance, and that He is working according to His purpose, to make you more and more like His Son Jesus, and to prepare you for an eternity with Him.
When you want to scream out, “It isn’t fair!”, instead focus on these truths. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel the pain of discouragement, betrayal, or dashed hopes, but by setting your sights on God rather than yourself, you can resist the temptation to let your emotions rule you and instead let truth keep you from sinful responses.
The Apostle Paul experienced more struggles in life than most of us will ever face. Not only was he rejected by his countrymen, but he was beaten and punished for preaching the truth, put on trial, imprisoned, and eventually executed. All for doing what God called him to do! If anyone could yell out, “It’s not fair!”, it certainly would have been him. But instead, he wrote to the church at Corinth, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Did you get that, this light momentary affliction? Whatever you are facing will one day seem small in light of the glory of eternity.