Growing up as a middle child, I suffered from a severe case of Middle Child Syndrome. What you read about Middle Child Syndrome is very true. We ARE the mistreated, abused, neglected children in every family. And no, you may not contact my mother to confirm what I just said! Every time I felt that I was being treated unfairly as a kid, my parents would respond with the same answer…Well, life’s not fair!
All of us at one time or another have experienced moments where we have thought life’s just not fair. The neighbor who has a house that is bigger than yours, cars that are newer and nicer than yours, kids that are more well behaved and with straighter teeth than yours. And they seem to have all the things you desire AND they don’t give God even a thought.
Or maybe you see the coworker or person in your line of work that cares nothing about the company or the job. They are only about themselves, how they look. Their philosophy is how can I make a name for myself and I don’t care who I have to step on to get it. And because they suck up to the right people, they get promotions, raises, recognition, everything you have been working hard to get.
In Psalm 73, Asaph reveals his own struggle with the unfairness of life. He doesn’t just ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” He goes to the next level and raises a question many of us think, but are afraid to voice aloud. Why do GOOD things happen to BAD people? It is an honest question but there are some pitfalls associated with allowing ourselves to stay focused on this for too long.
At the root of the unfairness problem is that in our hearts, we believe that right should always win and bad should always lose. Even Hollywood knows this. Why else would the majority of the television shows and movies they produce have the good guy winning, riding off into the sunset with the beautiful damsel. When we watch shows that have the bad guy winning, we are usually shocked. We have a desire for good to triumph and evil to fail. And when we experience the opposite in our lives, we struggle to make sense of it.
When we see unfairness, we begin to compare. How much stuff you have versus how much I have. How easy I have it versus how easy you have it. And comparison leads us right to bitterness and envy. And on the outside, it looks like our problem is with those that are doing better than us. But it really isn’t. Our problem is with God.
We believe God to be in control, to keep the world in order, and when we see others doing better than us, we blame him for not caring, not loving, not being in control, etc. You name it. We revert back to our ways as kids and look at God and scream, “That’s not fair!” We pout, kick, and scream. And if we aren’t careful, we begin to doubt in God at all. Even Asaph struggled with this by asking, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?” (Psalm 73: 13 NLT) What is the point of being Godly if we are met with trouble, heartache, pain, AND less stuff than those that don’t care about God at all?
The problem with all this is our perspective. We think we see things as they really are, as if our reality is the true reality. What we forget is that we don’t have God’s perspective. We cannot see what he sees. It is no different when my kids think my actions are unfair. When I make decisions to buy one of my kids something and the others want it too, regardless if they need it or not, they cry UNFAIR! But what they can’t see is my reasoning for the decision. They don’t know the balance in the checkbook. They don’t see the upcoming events I know about that will bring them other good things. It still doesn’t stop them from thinking I am just a mean dad.
Asaph’s answer to overcoming the feelings of unfairness is to spend time in the sanctuary. When we get caught up in the unfairness of life, thinking we are being mistreated and abused, we need to spend time with God. It is by spending time with God we are reconnected to him, his heart, and his love for his children. We begin to see things from a new perspective. No longer limited by our own sinful worldview, spending time in the presence of God open us up to his will, his plan, his perspective.
Spending time with God also reminded Asaph that what he saw wasn’t the end and God is in control of how this will all turn out. Yes, we may not fully understand everything that is happening to us right now. We may not understand why those that care nothing about God seem to prosper, but we know the writer/director/producer of it all and HE knows how this will all turn out. And we can trust him, regardless of what we are experiencing. Regardless of how unfair life may seem.
Even through all the doubts and struggles, the questioning of faith, Asaph isn’t cast aside for his doubts. In fact, it is just the opposite. Asaph is met by God’s love. He recognizes that God is leading and guiding him, even through the difficulties.
The problem with comparing lives with others is that we begin to think the things the world has are more valuable than what we have been offered and given in Christ. But how much stuff would it take for you to walk away from your relationship with God? Is there really anything in this world that you would say is actually more valuable than knowing Jesus Christ?
When we think life’s not fair, we are right. It isn’t. But if you are a follow of Jesus Christ, you have gotten the better end of the deal. You may not have stuff, but you’ve got Jesus. You may not have as much square footage, but you’ve got Jesus. We’ve been given salvation. We’ve been given Christ. We’ve been given an eternity in the presence of the Almighty.
God, help us to move beyond comparison and see how much we have been given in you. We draw near to you, to spend time in your sanctuary, to know your heart and remember just how much you love us. Amen.