Life is not fair. How’s that for stating the obvious? I had this epiphany a few weeks ago. I had been whining to a dear and trusted friend about some of the ways in which I was on the short end of that stick: not only was life not fair, but it was not being fair to me. My friend gave me the standard Christian advice: look to Jesus. He can fill those holes that mere human beings leave gaping. Which is all true, and never what I want to hear.
So on the way home, I started praying – which frequently looks a lot like yelling at my windshield. When I finally stopped to listen, the Lord simply said, “You’re right. Life is not fair.” And then He reminded me of a whole lot of other people I know whose lives are not fair. Is it fair that this one has been ill for twenty years? Or that the newlyweds found out the bride had advanced Lyme disease right before the wedding and may never have a “normal” married life? Is it fair that this one has already been a widow longer than she was married—especially after she waited so many years to get married in the first place?
I knew what He was trying to tell me: My life is no more unfair than anyone else’s—and maybe less so.
I once saw a PBS video called “The Gift of Grief,” which featured, among others, author Isabel Allende. Her daughter Paula died at the age of 28, and Isabel related that, when her daughter was in intensive care, she had collapsed in a waiting room, crying, “Why me?” An elderly gentleman in the waiting room, most likely there to say his final goodbyes to his wife, looked at her and calmly asked her, “Why not you?”
Which she understood in this way: what makes you any different from everyone else who has to go through grief and loss and illnesses and all the other trials and troubles of this world? Why should you be exempt?
Why not me? Why should I be exempt? The question reminds me of God speaking from the whirlwind in the last few chapters of the book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Who says you are qualified to decide what is and is not fair, or whether or not you are being treated fairly?
Truth is, I’m not qualified to make that call. It’s humbling, and I would so much rather be humbled than live my life feeling frustrated because I believe I’m entitled to something I don’t have.
The other thought that comes to mind (again!) is Jesus’ statement to Peter in John 21. Jesus has just challenged Peter with the thrice repeated question: “Do you love me?” and explained to Peter that when he is older, he will be taken places where he does not want to go. Peter points at John and asks, What about him? And Jesus basically tells Peter, that is not your concern. “If I choose for him to remain until I return, what difference will that make to you? You follow me!” Don’t worry about what happens to him, or anybody else. Don’t start comparing, or deciding what is and isn’t fair. Eyes on Jesus. Follow Me.