As a mom I find myself saying these words all too often to my children. Sometimes, I default to this saying because I don’t want to referee another disagreement between my boys. But mostly, I come back to this because it is true; Life is not fair, and I’m still getting used to it.
As a child and adolescent, the lack of “fairness” that I observed in the world really made me angry. I was offended that others had more or less . . . (fill in the blank). I lived with an inner dialog that was stuck in comparison, and in my head I had written a novel of discontentment, embarrassment, and shame. “If only…” filled my heart and produced a harvest of victimization, poverty, bitterness, and narcissism.
“If only I was smarter, prettier, thinner, and wore the right jeans…”
“If only my dad wasn’t an alcoholic, if only my mom hadn’t walked out, if only we lived in a decent house.”
“If only . . .”
“If only . . .”
“If only I wasn’t so stuck.”
And just like any other victim, the small broken child within me grew into a frustrated broken adult.
“If only my boss understood me”
“If only my kids listened better”
“If only my husband didn’t look at that website”
“If only my house was cleaner”
“If only I had more money”
“If only there were more hours in a day . . .”
“If only . . .”
There always seemed to be a reason why I couldn’t rise up higher: someone or something was inevitably holding me back. I couldn’t control anyone else’s behavior or even my own circumstances; that just wasn’t the hand I was dealt and I felt powerless. And as I looked around at the unfairness of the human condition, it was easy to justify my thoughts. Abuse, prejudice, poverty, natural disaster, and disease were in one corner, influence, wealth, status, luck, and power in the other. It really was not hard to see the contrast: by simply taking a walk through town or flipping on the news, the injustice of this world – my world- was undeniable.
Thankfully, I was not designed to remain in brokenness, none of us are. When we can no longer stand our own pain and when we are fed up with feeling broken and powerless, we can ask Jesus to help us and He will . . .
When I first met Jesus in my freedom session a few years back, He lovingly met me in this broken place of comparison and discontent. He knew that my heart was shattered and my view distorted from a life of pain and trauma. He didn’t go to the cross so that I would stay that way. As I was honest with Him about my disappointments, fears, and anger, He took the prison of my self-imposed “tally marks” and rearranged them into something new and surprising.
Over time, Jesus continued to work on my heart and mind through His loving encounters. And in His sweet presence, my heart began to soften. One by one, the “unfair” chapters in the book of my life were placed in His hands and I watched in amazement as He so lovingly replaced them with new perspectives, new hopes, and new words. When viewed through Jesus’ grace, those things I once deemed as inexcusable, disproportionate, and oppressive became forgiveness, humility, and freedom.
Recently, He reminded me how well He understands unfairness and that sometimes, mysteriously, His plans include it.
In Matthew 25:14-30, we encounter Jesus telling a parable of the three servants who received different amounts of money (talents) from their master before he went on a long trip. Maybe you are familiar with this text? These servants stewarded the money they were given differently, according to their own mindsets and when the master came back from his trip, he asked the servants to show him what they accomplished with his generosity. The first and second servants decided to invest what they had and they doubled their money. The third servant however, judging his master harshly, was only able to produce what had been given to him originally. If you’ve read this parable before, you know that the master is not pleased with the third servant and what little was given to him in the beginning was taken away and given to the servant who had the most.
When I first read this parable through the lens of freedom, it was like a good look in the mirror to my past. I wasted so many of my years being worried about how much everyone else had, comparing my hand to theirs, and making assumptions about what my perceived “unfairness” meant about God and His Kingdom. All of that time and energy was wasted, producing nothing, but expecting everything. Spiritual apathy. A lazy servant. This realization was a tough pill to swallow.
The truth is that God’s Kingdom hardly ever aligns with the kingdoms of this world. If we want to think and be like Jesus, then we can choose to come to Him and allow His Holy Spirit to shift our perspectives. This is good news! Jesus is literally standing at the door and inviting us to take responsibility for our hand and do something with it. This life is unfair. Our lives, our destinies, our purposes are portioned differently. But different does not mean less significant, and we are all called to steward what He has given us in His wisdom.
When I look at my life now, I am honestly amazed by God’s goodness. He took a small, seemingly insignificant and very broken vessel, filled me with overflowing love, and gave me His Spirit as a comfort, friend, helper, and guide. Together with Jesus we are on a beautiful journey of turning our “if onlys” into powerful “what if’s” as the narrative of our lives continue .
“What if Jesus really is who He says He is?”
“What if I really do have a seat in Heavenly places?”
“What if I have destiny and purpose?”
“What if my life’s work will plow new ground for my children and their children for one thousand generations?”
“What if it doesn’t matter what someone else has or doesn’t have, because I am charged to steward what I have.”
“What if I really am accountable for my life?
I pray that as you read these words, God’s Spirit will highlight those places within you that are stunted by your reactions to the unfairness of this world. And I bless you to receive all of the unfairness of the cross as a sweet and holy balm to soothe those bitter stings.
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