Life is not fair!

by Mark Danis | June 25, 2019 12:04 am

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“The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” by Caravaggio


We have all heard this line before. Most of us probably heard it first from our parents when they tried to help us come to grips with the hard times that life inevitably doles out to all of us.

No doubt many, if not all of us, have said this to ourselves a few times throughout our life. And frankly, the statement is completely accurate. It is even confirmed by what Christ Himself said to us in the Gospel.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

What our parents may have failed to add to this ancient wisdom that life is not fair was that there is another half to the statement. This is the way it should be rendered. “Life is not fair, but eternity is.”

You see, it is true that this earthly life is not fair, our own individual experience proves this. But what is also true is that everything will be worked out in eternity, one way or the other.

“We know that in everything God works for good[a] with those who love him,[b] who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So if this world is not fair but eternity will be, why would anyone choose to live with a purely worldly or earthly perspective? Or, put another way, why would anyone not choose to live with an eternal perspective? For if we can begin to see all the events of our lives, the good and the bad, in the context of God’s very personal and loving eternal plan for us, then we will no longer feel compelled to try and make sense of each individual circumstance of our life.

This eternal perspective is not something we have to work all that hard to practice. The truth is that an eternal mindset has already been provided to us; we only need to choose to exercise it.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

And for those who choose God above all and seek with all their heart to love Him more than anything this earthly life has to offer, we read this promise from the pen of St. Paul.

“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Paul borrowed this language from Isaiah:

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)

But rather than emphasizing our merely waiting on God, Paul wanted to focus our attention on what it is we must do while we wait. Paul placed the emphasis on our practicing an active love for God.

So much of what we suffer in this limited, temporal and temporary life could easily be endured if we only began to see ourselves not merely as eternal beings, but also as beings who are already living in that eternity. And if we are eternal beings, then there must be an eternal purpose for each of us.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

This life is about our transformation into love itself, but it is all still within eternity. We are being prepared for it even now, at least to the extent that we allow this transformation to happen. But unfortunately, so many souls remain blind to their eternal destiny because they only see their life through the lens of their immediate circumstances. One day we will see it all.

The famous philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, said: “Life must be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”

We go through this life so often oppressed by our trials and sufferings. We can often feel as though we are stumbling in the dark, bumping into objects trying to find our way. We remain blind to what it is God is doing in our lives. But the Lord came to heal us of this temporal blindness.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18)

So then, what are we to do to regain our eternal vision and our sense of balance and stability, especially in the midst of this often-confusing phase of eternity we call our earthly life?

The answer is simple, but it can be difficult to practice. We need to seek to continually live in God’s Will for our life and not our own. His is the Will that is being worked out for our good, and for all eternity. With our limited perspective, and our reluctance to endure too much instability in our life, we will almost always seek out the path of least resistance, which may not be the path the Lord has chosen for us.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It is when our will clashes with God’s Will that we become oppressed by our circumstances. We struggle with life whenever we resist God’s actions because our own approach can take us off course from our eternal destiny. St. Paul discovered this on his way to Damascus when he heard the Lord speak to him:

“And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:14)

Goads were long, sharpened sticks used to prod oxen when they were hitched to yokes. Not wanting to be jabbed again with the stick, the ox would kick against it. It would soon learn that it was better to accept the direction of the farmer than to “kick against the goad.” In this context of Acts 26:14, the expression means that it is foolish and futile to resist God’s will.

This does not mean that we will never suffer or have trials in this life. If even the Son of God had to suffer, then certainly there will be times of trial and suffering for us as well. This too is part of God’s plan. But what we must come to realize is that God’s plan for us is perfect, and we need to come to desire God’s Will for our lives more than we desire our own will.

A Christian places all his or her attention on the Will of God, and therefore places all affection and desire not on the things that God Wills, but rather upon the Will of God who Wills them. (Sentiments of St. Francis de Sales on following the Will of God)

This might sound a bit confusing, but all it is saying is that we must desire God’s Will because it is His Will, regardless of whether we like the specific ways it may play out in our life.

So, what does this have to do with our prayer life? Or, how might this eternal perspective change the way we pray?

Christians who choose to live in eternity now, and seek God’s Will first, do not focus so much on the individual circumstances of their lives. They do not pray so much to have God change their individual circumstances, as they pray for God’s grace to allow those circumstances to change them into the person God wants them to be for all eternity.

This is a very mature form of prayer, but it is the one used by those who live in eternity now.

There is one last quote worth keeping in mind. “Life is not fair, but it is short.” Which may at first provide us some comfort. But it also echoes Paul’s words regarding how little time there is in this life to prepare for eternity.

“I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short…” (1 Corinthians 7:29a)

Please pray this week that we might all find the grace we need to allow our circumstances to transform us to receive what God ‘has planned for us.’

God Bless.


Copyright © 2019 by Mark Danis


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Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/wp-content/uploads/caravaggio-beheading-of-john-the-baptist-featured-w740x493.jpg

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