I was pondering whether, as a child, I suffered very often from the ‘it’s not fair’ syndrome. Maybe I did more than I can remember, but I do recall one person that I was quite jealous of in primary school, who seemed to always be able to be just that bit better than me in sports, particularly athletics. Now I was ok, but coming second to Kevin (I even remember his name!) all the time really ‘sucked’, as young people say today. It just wasn’t fair! Or so I thought.
Sadly, the ‘it’s not fair’ syndrome can continue on into adulthood and it is not healthy. It has various forms but what they have in common is making comparisons with what others have or are able to accomplish.
The author of Psalm 44 had this problem. If you have only read the first 8 verses, you might be surprised to read this. But read on and you will understand. Having praised God for all He has done for the generations past of his people he then says,
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
13 You have made us a reproach to our neighbours,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.
He got straight to the point!
“For this psalmist the complaint is that although God is known to have acted on behalf of Israel’s ancestors and to have made many promises about blessings and victories, there is no indication of it happening today. In fact, the reverse is true – at the time of writing all the psalmist can see is defeat and disgrace. It just isn’t fair! One can hear both the pain and the sense of injustice.” (Scripture Union notes)
I guess that many of us can identify with the writer in some degree. Life can be tough sometimes with very little clarity as to why it is happening. Breakdowns in family relationships, financial stress, illness or worse, even death occurring amongst loved ones, false accusations and the list goes on. It is just so tempting to cry out to God, ‘it’s just not fair!’
And then to make it even worse, there just not seem to be any real reason this should be happening. What is the connection between this and my relationship with God, which at last assessment seemed to be going well. Listen to how the psalmist described it:
17 All this came upon us,
though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
As SU notes summarizes it:
“Don’t let anyone tell me it is because of my sin. I really, really haven’t depended on my own strength instead of Yours and I really, really have trusted in and worshipped You. So, God, why haven’t you played your part and blessed me too?” Sort of reminds one of Job’s conversations with God as his friends, whom he calls “miserable comforters” sat with him, giving their “long-winded speeches” as they tried to sort him out (Job 16:2-3).
And so the psalmist ends with a prayer, but not really with a resolution. He says:
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.
Is it ok to speak to God like this? Yes! Is he with us and listening? Yes! Is it true that sometimes life just isn’t fair, even when we assume that we are doing the right thing? Yes! Will everything work out ok in the end? Not necessarily – although of course the NT assures us that in eternal terms this remains true (see, for example, John 14). Our only hope being in God’s “unfailing love’. (verse 26)
Father, life really doesn’t seem fair at times, and you know that. But, when I consider Jesus and the treatment he received at the hands of his creation, there was little fairness in that. Strengthen me in these days to remain entrenched in you unfailing love for me. Amen.