A few weeks ago, my husband and I finally had a night to ourselves and decided to watch a movie. We found Angel In The House on Amazon. It sounded a little cheesy, but we tried it. Without giving everything away, the characters tried to have children but weren’t able to and decided to adopt instead. Eventually they discovered they were pregnant and the movie ended happily… for them.
Out of nowhere, this incredible sadness welled up inside of me and I began to cry uncontrollably. It was what some would consider an “ugly” gut-wrenching cry. And I couldn’t stop. I got ready for bed… weeping, went to sleep… weeping, and woke up… heartbroken.
For the past six years, we have tried for another child. I say another because we have two amazing boys who are now 7 and 10. Someone might read this and think that I’m ungrateful because I actually have kids while some people can’t have them at all. I fear this response, because I know in my heart that I am grateful every day that God blessed us with not one, but TWO children. They are a gift and, I now know, a miracle. My point is that I had an expectation of how life was supposed to go. We were going to have a big family with at least five kids, and I was going to be a stay-at-home mom. Frankly, many things just haven’t gone the way I planned.
In this moment of sadness I heard myself say, “life’s not fair.” I began thinking of all the people I knew who life hadn’t been fair to: a friend who suddenly became a single dad of a new baby after the loss of his wife; my uncle who is serving a life sentence in prison for something he didn’t do; my friend who should have been married for 50+ years only to have infidelity shorten it to 25; friends who have chronic illnesses; friends who have lost a child; and yes, friends who tried desperately to have children and could not. And what about people around our world being persecuted for their faith, caught up in sex-trafficking or literally starving to death? There are endless examples. My little heartache is so insignificant compared to what many around me are facing. I think we can all agree, though, that life truly is not fair.
So what do we do in the face of this unfairness? What do we say to someone who is grieving what should have been or what could have been?
Many people who experience unfairness ask, why? Why would a good, loving God allow all this?
God answers this in the Bible, but not exactly how we would expect. The book of Job explores the difficult question of God’s relationship to human suffering. Job is a man who God considers to be doing “all the right things.” He is faithful to God, humble, repentant and basically a super holy guy. Yet God allows Satan to destroy everything that Job has. In one day, all his children and most of his servants die, and all of his wealth is eliminated. To top it off, he becomes extremely ill. In his deepest moments of suffering, he curses his own birth and begs God to take his life. (For the full story of Job, check out The Bible Project or start reading the book here.)
Job asks God the infamous “why?” He knows he has done “all the right things,” so in his human reasoning it doesn’t make sense that he would face so much suffering. He realizes in this moment that life really isn’t fair. Basically, if he could be God for a week, he would do things differently.
God answers Job in chapters 38 to 41 by revealing his omnipotence and proving that Job’s knowledge of the world and justice is limited. Job doesn’t know everything so he can’t understand everything. God basically says, “I know how this world works because I created it. I can see the big picture and you can’t.” Parents say the same thing to their children, right? A toddler falls down, gets hurt and can only think of their small injury. Dad picks him up and says, “trust me, it’s going to be okay.”
God says the same thing to Job: “It’s going to be okay, I’ve got this.” God is inviting Job into a deeper relationship with Him and to trust Him, His wisdom and His character, even though the unfairness and suffering doesn’t make sense.
Job responds to God’s invitation with repentance and reverence. He chooses to accept God’s invitation in the midst of his circumstances, even though he was still experiencing pain and heartache and probably didn’t think things would improve.
In the same way, God invites us to seek and grow closer to Him during our trials and suffering. He doesn’t tell us why life’s not fair, but asks us to trust Him through it all — to trust in His wisdom and character, and not in our own limited understanding of this world.
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.” (Psalm 9:10, NLT)
It’s not easy to do, and I’ll probably cry a few more tears. Yet in the midst of things not going the way I planned, and even though I will never fully understand why people suffer, my prayer is that God will help me to trust Him and His wisdom through it all — no matter how big or small — until the day He sends His son Jesus back to make all things right again.