Note: In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from many teens who are dealing with tough issues. Though the issues have differed from story to story, I have noticed a common question among the stories I’ve been hearing from students. The question: Why is life unfair?
This can be tricky question to answer. Here are some thoughts I’ve sent to students who’ve asked this question. If your student is asking, I hope this can be of help to the both of you:
Jared wrote me recently to say, “Life’s not fair. “My dad is gone, my mom is depressed, school sucks, and I’m sick of it. I try to do what is right, but nothing seems to go my way!” Can you relate? I know I can. There have been many times in my life when I’ve questioned why life can be so unfair. You’ve probably asked this before too. Even if you haven’t asked, it’s likely others will come to you for this answer when they find out you’re a Christian. (Friends and family often turn to Christians for answers during a season of personal struggle.)
First, to better understand why life isn’t fair you need to remember that God has given us a great gift. It’s called “free will.” This gift is one that you and I use every day as we make choices. This gift is also one that we can misuse if we are not careful. And, many do! Because we have the ability to choose to live as we please, we can often choose the wrong things. And, because many people in fact do choose wrongly, all of humanity suffers. One wrong choice often effects many more than just the one person who made that choice. Think about the one man who walked onto the campus of Umpqua Community College a few weeks ago and started shooting. Nine “innocent” lives were taken that day because one person used free will. Think about Hitler, ISIS, or those men who hijacked planes on September 11, 2001, and took the lives of so many at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The choices of a few have effected so many.
Such grotesque examples make it easy to divide the guilty from the innocent. However, reality is none of us is clean; not a single one of us because we each have made wrong choices. We are all sinners. Therefore, though difficult to be reminded, one of the reasons life isn’t “fair” can be summarized in the brutal reality that none of us deserve fairness because none of us are sinless.
Why did God give us the freedom of choice if He knew we would abuse it? God didn’t create clones (and aren’t you glad he didn’t?). He loves us and wants us to love Him in return. However, true love can’t be forced or manipulated. Since God wanted real love from us, He gave the ability to choose to us. So, we can choose to love Him…or not love Him. And, that means we have the freedom to choose to do wrong too.
Second, (this isn’t the easy part to hear) some may say that life isn’t fair when they have questions for which it seems there are no answers. For example, a friend of mine has a sister who recently lost her baby shortly after her baby was born. The family is devastated. My friend asked me several weeks ago to try and explain that one. I could not.
There are circumstances and situations that play out every day on Earth that are sad, brutal, often unexplainable, and, unfair. We’ll never fully understand why God does all that He does and allows all that He allows until we reach heaven. The Bible says:
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV)
The bible also says:
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NIV)
Maybe your mom or dad has left your family, or you’ve lost a loved one, or you’ve been mistreated, abused, or abandoned by someone close to you. When you can’t find a good reason for why such things happen, remember God fully understands your pain. He suffered the greatest injustice of all time: His perfect Son, Jesus, who never did anything wrong was arrested, beaten, hit, spit on, cursed at, and then nailed to a cross to die. He never deserved such treatment. But He did it for you—He did it for all of us.
Even when answers are hard (or even impossible) to find, God says, “I will always be with you and help you.” Joshua 1:5 (CEV)
Life is unfair. But, remember that none of us really deserve fair. Additionally, none of us deserve God’s love. But, He offers it to us anyway. And, we have free will to choose to receive it. Thank you God for giving us the freedom to make the choice to say, “Yes!”