Life Isn’t Fair – And I’m Glad

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by Shane Scott

Just a month before she passed, Kristi suggested that we read something together that would be encouraging. Years ago, a good friend of mine had recommended a book, A Grace Disguised. I promptly purchased it then, and then promptly forgot about it. But when Kristi suggested we work through a book together, it popped back into my mind. We were immensely blessed by reading it.

The author, Jerry Sittser, faced sudden and catastrophic loss when a drunk driver hit the van he was driving, killing his wife, his youngest daughter, and his mother. Three generations – wiped out in an instant. Making matters worse, when the case went to trial, the drunk driver’s attorney managed to get him off. Can you imagine experiencing the nightmare of such a tragedy and then a miscarriage of justice?

It isn’t fair!

There isn’t anything fair about a father losing a daughter, or husband losing a wife, or a son losing a mother. There wasn’t anything fair about Kristi’s diagnosis of rectal cancer at such a young age and less than a year into our marriage. And you have your stories to share that painfully illustrate the unfairness of life.

But as Sittser described his own frustration with the unfairness of his loss, he made a point that really resonated with us. Just as it is the case that we experience many tragic losses that are unfair, we also enjoy many gifts in life that we do not deserve. Life, love, joy, beauty. Merit has nothing to do with any of these things. They are displays of God’s grace. As Sittser writes:

So, God spare us a life of fairness! To live in a world of grace is better by far than to live in a world of absolute fairness. A fair world may make life nice for us, but only as nice as we are. We may get what we deserve, but I wonder how much that is and whether or not we would really be satisfied. A world with grace will give us more than we deserve. It will give us life, even in our suffering.

The morning after we read that paragraph, Kristi had an appointment with a chiropractor. As we started to head out, we noticed that our garage door was broken – one of the rollers was mangled. I had tried to fix it a few days earlier, but in a display of my typical mechanical ability, I failed. In the midst of all the stress we felt during her illness, it didn’t take much of a straw to break this camel’s back, and when I saw that the door was broken, I became unhinged (!).

We finally managed to get to her appointment, and after Kristi’s adjustment, we decided to pop by a Krispy Kreme donut shop because they were giving out free pumpkin spice donuts. But when we pulled into the drive-thru, we learned that the giveaway was the day before. Yet another frustration! But then the person on the other end of the speaker said, “I’ll go ahead and give it to you anyway.” And then when we pulled up to the window, she decided to give us several more for no charge (Kristi had a neck brace on from the adjustment, so we joked later that we got the free donuts because she looked so fragile!).

I realize a few free donuts isn’t much in the scheme of things, but that day, at that moment, it was a blessing. And it got us to thinking about how many blessings we received that day that were totally undeserved. Earlier in the morning, we obtained a coupon to reduce our copay for a new experimental drug to zero – and the pharmacy took the initiative to make sure we knew about it. Kristi’s adjustment was free because our chiropractor is a dear friend from church who had employed Kristi part-time for the last four years. And that evening another great friend from church gave us some delicious mini-bunt cakes (we ate well that day!).

Life indeed is not fair. Sometimes we face that which is cruel and heartbreaking. But sometimes we receive generous and uplifting gifts that remind us of the good we do not deserve. This is why it is so important to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), to see that our lives are not totally defined by loss and pain, and that to ask “Why me?” is not only appropriate when we suffer, but also when we are blessed.