Life's Not Fair but God Is Good
By Robert H. Schuller
"Life's Not Fair!" - You Hear It Everywhere.
Young and old, rich and poor, fast and slow, tall and short, men and women, boys and girls - all have seen and felt life's cruel injustices. Whoever you are, wherever you've come from, you have heard these words - "LIFE'S NOT FAIR!"
On the Playground
The sting of cruelty starts early. Its roots can be found in early childhood experiences.
I speak from personal experience. Like every other boy, I have lived through the suffering of choosing teams for a baseball game. You know what I'm talking about. Two boys, usually the strongest and the most athletic, appoint themselves captains. Then those two captains take turns choosing who they want on their team. Of course, they choose the best players first. Like all sporting organization heads, they want to win, and their draft choices reflect their opinions of the various players.
I cannot tell you how painful it is to wait on the sidelines, waiting, waiting, waiting, hoping to be picked. The big captains pick one boy, then another, then another. Meanwhile, they pass over you. You are not as good. You are less desirable. You are worth less. Life's not fair!
I know that pain, for I was always the last one to be picked. I can still hear the haunting words, "Oh, no! We got stuck with Schuller!"
I'm not the only one who has felt the pain of cruelty in my childhood. Every day, millions of children go through it. Stand a while on the sidelines of a playground. Watch the children as they play ball and chase each other. Listen to their squeals of laughter as they play. On the surface they seem to be having fun. However, if you listen and observe closely, you'll see that the play soon becomes competitive. Good-natured give-and-take evolves quickly into cut-throat competition. Before long the loser declares, "That's not fair!"
At the Stadium
We grow up. Or do we?
"Take me out to the ballgame!" How thrilling it is to go to the stadium - hot dogs, cold drinks, peanuts. The roar of the crowd. Boys in summer. Everybody loves that all-American sport - baseball. Fans are fiercely loyal. They are also very fickle. They pay a lot to see their favorite players play. And they expect a lot. Just watch a well-paid athlete drop an easy catch and listen to the derisive comments.
The fans are happy as long as their team is winning. The sports commentators and the national television cameras create a great deal of pressure for these professional athletes. This game, which was once upon a lime played for fun, has now become a crucial contest. It is worth millions.
As the end of the season approaches, the pressure mounts more than ever. Wins and losses are carefully tabulated. The tension fills the air. The fall classic is approaching. Will our favorite team be in it? The pitcher throws out the first pitch. The crowd roars. The game proceeds. One up, one down, so it goes. No score. Suddenly the pitcher throws a bad pitch. "Ball!" Three balls later, he has walked his first batter.
A man on first. He tries to steal to second on the next pitch. "OUT!"
You've all seen these scenes many times at the stadium or on TV. The manager runs out to argue with the umpire, chest to chest. What's he saying? It's probably best not repeated, but you can be sure that in the midst of all the fury you will hear these three words, 'That's not fair!'
In the Office
Linger by the water cooler at any office building. Watch the men and women who visit briefly before they return to their desks. What are they feeling? What are they saying? Oh, sure they are friendly. They have to work together. There is a sense of camaraderie. "Do you need help? Give me a call. I'll be glad to help out." But then Janet is late for work. The following week she is late again. A pattern begins to emerge. Resentment creeps in. Harmless little questions arise: "Why is Janet late so often? How does she get away with it?"
The office workers don't know that Janet's mother is sick. Janet is taking her to the doctor in the morning. She has made all the arrangements with her boss, who is allowing her to catch up on her work in the evenings.
When Janet is given a promotion and the others are overlooked, I guarantee you will overhear these three words: "It's not fair!"
At the Audition
Sit in the back of a dark auditorium. Watch as one girl after another takes her place on the bare stage. A tall, thin girl says her name, announces the title of her song, and then proceeds to sing. Her voice is shaky at first, but she grows in confidence and sings well. What you do not see is the endless line of girls waiting backstage for their turn.
They all have waited through the morning. It will be evening before everyone has had a chance to audition. There is only one opening in the cast. One out of over a hundred will be picked. They are all qualified. They have studied, practiced, paid for lessons, worked hard for years and years. For most of these girls this is a life-long dream. It is all they have ever wanted out of life. Yet, only one will be chosen. And the others? They will all cry in their pillow and through their tears you will hear, "It's not fair!"
In the Doctor's Office
Imagine you are a doctor. Your specialty is Obstetrics/Gynecology. In the course of one day you would see nearly fifty women. Of those women, nearly half would be pregnant. These are women who want their babies. They have carefully planned their pregnancies. They are almost fanatical in their care for their unborn babies. They watch every bite they eat. They consult you before they take any medications. For the next nine months they will question everything they do, see, smell, inhale, or ingest.
There will also be women who will come to see you because they do not want to be pregnant. It was a one-night stand. They can't possibly carry this baby. They don't love the father and certainly don't have room in their lives for a pregnancy. They ask for abortions.
After these women have voiced their anti-baby sentiments, you consult with a woman who has fertility problems. She has tried in vain to get pregnant. Each month she hopes that she will feel the first signs of pregnancy. She longs for a child to hold, a precious baby to cradle in her arms. She cries soft tears. She pleads, "Is there anything you can do for me, Doctor? Is there any hope for me to have a baby?"
Just then the call comes. A pregnancy is terminating too early. A woman is miscarrying and a life is gone. A hope is dashed. Back home a carefully decorated nursery will be closed, with baby clothes packed away. If you were that doctor, I doubt you would be able to get through one day without muttering to yourself, "It's not fair!"
In the Bible
Jesus told the story of the father who had two sons. They worked on his farm and lived well. One day one of his sons came to him with an unusual request, "Hey, Dad, can I have my inheritance early? I mean, if I wait until you're gone, I'll probably be too old to enjoy it."
Dad gives his son his inheritance, so the son takes off. He becomes a real jet-setter. He spends frivolously and lives immorally. Life has become one big party.
Meanwhile big brother stays home and works. He helps out Dad, keeping him company. He does his Work PLUS he does his little brother's work who is off playing around. He consoles himself with the thought that Dad will repay him someday for his loyalty and diligence. He goes so far as to think, "Dad will love me more." But alas, one day he looks down the road to see little brother coming back.
Little brother looks awful. He stinks, while telling how he spent everything. All of his money squandered, he took the only job he could find - feeding pigs. His payment was leftovers from the trough. One day he woke up, looked at himself, and wondered, "Wow! Why am I sticking around here? Why don't I go back home to Dad? He may not take me back, but what have I got to lose?"
Big brother glowers as he listens to his little brother's tale of woes. Surely Dad will remember how hard he worked. Dad will remember all those hot days when he did the work of two sons.
But what does Dad do? He throws open his arms and says to his younger son, "Welcome home! Am I glad to see you! I thought you were gone for good!" Then he turns to his servants and declares, "Bring out the best calf we have. Cook it. Tell everyone that we are going to have a feast! A party! My son who was lost is found!"
Well, I'm sure that if you had a seat by big brother at that party you probably would have heard, "It's not fair!"
Life's Not Fair . . .
"Life's not fair!" You hear it everywhere - on the playground, the athletic field, in the office, in the entertainment world, in medicine, even in the Bible. As a pastor, I have heard these words more often than I care to think. Lawyers, spouses, children, students . . . you name it, no one has been immune from the feelings of injustice. Life's unfairness touches everyone at one time or another.
Life's injustices often start at birth. Children aren't born equal. Not at all. I had breakfast the other day with my daughter and her lovely little children. Precious children. And I said, "Life isn't fair. These two kids have everything going for them. A caring father. A devoted mother. A loving home. They grow up in security."
Some children are born into homes ripe with opportunities. Some are nourished with love and encouragement. They have parents who care and provide training, education, materials.
But there are other children who are born to drug addicts. Their mothers are unable to care for them, so they remain the wards of the state. They live in a hospital ward until Mom can undergo treatment or until a foster home can be found. In the meantime, they languish in a plastic cubicle, with no one to hear their cries. Sure, the nurses are there and most of them care, but they are busy. They are overloaded. Their primary function is to provide medical attention. Caressing is not woven into the hospital's budget. These border babies are deprived of love and affection. For too many children, life's injustices start at birth.
For too many, life doesn't get any better with age. You've seen them; so have I, the homeless who push their carts down the street. What's in the carts? All that they own - a few oversized tennis shoes which were probably snatched from a trash can. A tattered blanket. An old, moth-eaten knit cap. Other odds and ends that have seen better days. These pathetic souls search the trash cans for the bitter remnants. They lick the fly-laden styrofoam of melted frozen yogurt cups. They haunt the back doors of restaurants, sleep in parks, and stand on street corners, reminding us that life's not fair!
Fortunately, there are those of us who have been spared these indignities, these abusive blows to our self-esteem. Most of us will never have to try to repair the irreparable damage that these babies and these homeless have endured. Nevertheless, none of us is totally spared insults, injuries, indignities and injustices. We have all experienced rejections. We have all received our share of pink slips, of "No Thank You's." And, regardless of our ages, regardless of our material resources, regardless of our education, race, or social standing, those barbs hurt. They sting; they hit below the belt, and frequently knock the wind out of us. It's hard to believe in a hopeful tomorrow when honest efforts go unrewarded.
I talked to a young student this week. He had applied to a graduate school, this being his second attempt. The first try had resulted in a rejection letter that explained he needed to bring his grade point average up in order to qualify for the program. The letter suggested that he take some more classes, that there would be a good chance for his acceptance to the program if he could maintain a B average. With that encouragement he went to work.
He signed up for classes. He studied. He worked hard. It paid off! The report cards came in with a B+ average! He was sure that the graduate program would accept him now. He reapplied. He waited, watching the mail. Day after day he met the mailman and eagerly searched through the letters and junk mail. Then it came. He recognized the envelope immediately.