Friday, September 28, 2012

Fair is not fair.

It shouldn’t take more than a brief glance at the circumstances of life around us to know that fairness is an illusion we subscribe to, not a reality we can expect.  In a number of ways, both personal and through my friends and loved ones, I have been repeatedly reminded that life is, most certainly, not fair.  Unprepared, ill-equipped teenage mothers populate our high schools, but wonderful, responsible people with great resources and hearts full of love are somehow denied or delayed the joy of parenthood.  Wildly irresponsible drivers make it through red lights unscathed, time and again, but a young mother loses two of her three kids when her minivan is run over by an SVU while waiting to make a legal left-hand turn; somehow the other driver walks free.  Cancer, fire, unemployment, heartbreak…sometimes these challenges are brought on by our poor choices, but all too often they strike, seemingly, out of nowhere.  We shake our fists to the sky and lament how incredibly, indescribably unfair it is.

In these moments, when fairness shows its fakeness, when I glimpse behind the curtain and see how illusive justice really is, I take comfort in the story of Job.  It is a very Hebrew story, because it does not subscribe to the New Testament, strongly Christian theology that God must always be “good.”  God, in fact, gives Satan permission to decimate Job’s life.  Much is made over the fact the God doesn’t do the decimating; however, it is clear that God gives consent to Satan’s experiment.  And Job, while refusing to curse God, does do some pitiful whining.

The part of Job I turn to for comfort, however, is Chapter 38, when the Lord finally responds.

From out of a storm,
the Lord said to Job:
Why do you talk so much
when you know so little?
Now get ready to face me!

God then asks Job to account for all of creation, “Were you there when I set the earth on its foundation?  When I directed the oceans to stay within their shore?  Did you teach the lions to hunt or the birds to fly?  Are you the one keeping this whole thing going?”  God asserts that humanity, Job specifically, is in no position to judge God, to claim God is wrong, or unjust – or, as it were, unfair.

I usually prefer to claim scripture like Romans 8:28, We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Such passages affirm God’s goodness and the hope that our difficulties and sorrows are actually God’s own handiwork.  God’s divine plan, carried out for our good.

But Job brings me comfort when the trials and hardships are inordinately unfair.  When there seems to be no possible good that could be worth the price I, or my loved ones, have to pay.  When the world just seems utterly unfair.  When I know that these hardships could not possibly be inflicted by a loving God.  I share, in these moments, Job’s lament; if I’ve done something wrong, Lord, just tell me what it is, so I can do better and deserve better. 

I also cling, in these moments, to God’s power and authority: God is still bigger than me.  Only God can judge what is really fair.  Only God can know how much I can take.  It is God’s prerogative to use me against Satan – to prove to Satan and humanity alike that God’s people are bigger than their hurt, that we can have a faith that runs deeper than our blessings.  Like Job, I can beg for a break, I can demand an explanation, but sometimes the lessons of this life that are sent through me, and through my friends and loved ones, aren’t even my lessons to learn.

Sometimes, like Job, you can refuse to curse God, you can conscientiously live for a higher purpose and by a higher code, and God will, inexplicably, still let Satan take stabs at you.  But unless you’ve seen the storehouses of heaven, laden with hail and snow, you’ve got to live with the reality that fairness by human standards is not fairness by God’s standards: and God’s standards always prevail.

I created both you and the hippopotamus. Job 40:15



  1. And hippos are really gross. Well said, Em.

    1. Thanks, Erin. Yeah, gives us a good humbling eh?

  2. Thanks for the perspective - sharing our woes together and our joys together always helps. Life most certainly is not fair...but I'm so grateful we can share in the ups and downs together. Your friendship is such a blessing to me - in so many ways.