“God isn’t Fair!” I hear this often from angry and bitter people who have suffered losses or disappointments in life. Some of their losses are heavy and come with great pain– loss of a child, loss of a home, loss of health…these are legitimate losses, and there are no conclusive, comprehensive or comforting answers. In fact, in many ways, God is NOT “fair”– as we usually define “fair.” God sends life, health, happiness, sunshine and rain to both the “just” and the “unjust”; to both rich and poor, tall and short, ugly and good looking, gracious and annoying, kind and cruel… Tragedy strikes at random, some are touched by it, others seem to be plagued by it, and still others skate through life unscathed.
God may not seem “fair”, but let’s look at it from another angle. God sends rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust. He sends gifts, and we use, abuse, accept, or reject them. Circumstances and outcomes are not always pleasant, but does this mean they are “bad?” And when they are easy, and comfortable, does this always make them “good?” Good people have to endure tragedy– this is usually what we focus on when we talk about God being “unfair.” And we generally put ourselves in the “good” category. Why should we have hardship and pain, while “bad” people seem to get a “pass?” Shouldn’t bad things only happen to bad people, while good people enjoy only good things? Sounds “fair”, doesn’t it?
But what happens when the world operates on that principle? If “bad” people are the only ones who get sick, then they deserve to be sick– not healed. If “bad” people are the only ones to experience poverty, then we don’t need to help the poor or the needy. Good people should be rich and healthy. But what if we are sometimes good, and sometimes selfish? Do we deserve to keep all that’s good if we misuse it, or lose all that’s good if we go astray and then repent? Is that fair?! Where is the motivation to cure diseases, share resources, or enforce laws? Who decides whether your “good” idea is “good” for everyone around you? Who can ascend to heaven and tell God what is “fair?”
God created us in His image, and that means that we have a spirit that longs for justice and fairness. It’s how we recognize evil and injustice. But sin clouds our eyes, and poisons our world–pollution doesn’t just hurt the people who pollute; arson doesn’t just burn the arsonist; drunk drivers don’t just hurt themselves; and so on. We don’t look at the evil or thoughtless or “unfair” things we have done or said that went unpunished or unnoticed. And we discount all the unmerited blessings that have come our way– God is often “unfair” in our favor! We don’t complain about that.
God is not the author of “unfairness”, though He allows it. And, while I can’t explain away pain and suffering when they occur, I know two things:
God is Gracious– If God’s justice were not tempered by mercy, every mistake, every sin, would be unforgivable and eternally ours to bear. Every random thoughtless action, and all its consequences, would weigh us down forever.
God is Just–Jesus’s death was about redemption and restoration– He didn’t just die to “save” you from hell– He died to restore you to the person and position for which you were created– whole, pure, unstained and uncorrupted. This wasn’t “Plan B”– this was His eternal plan, and it includes perfect justice and perfect restoration.
Knowing these things does not take away the pain of the present. It does not make suffering easy; it does not erase the loss. But it can allow us to take the next step, and the next, on our journey. Rain or shine.