With four kids running around the house, the phrase, “That’s not fair!” is commonly heard. Bedtimes, curfews, chores, academic expectations, you name it, are all used to validate my children’s belief that the hand of cards they’ve been dealt is just not quite as fair as the hand of cards their siblings are holding. Haven’t we all been there?!
When I was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2007, I spent many days crying and whining about the fairness of life. I was sexually molested as a child. Unfair. My parents split up when I was in kindergarten. Unfair. My Mom battled an addiction to prescription drugs until she died at the age of 59. Unfair. My third child is autistic. Unfair. After being robbed of self-respect through being molested, I made choices that stripped away what self-respect I had left. Unfair. I spent nearly thirty-five years of my life trying to earn grace and not grasping that it was freely given. Unfair. My husband went to war in order to protect and fight for freedom while our children and I stayed home and learned to live without him. Unfair. At age thirty-five I was diagnosed with cancer. Unfair.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade the unfair in my life for easy and normal on any given day.
When James said, “Consider yourself blessed when you are faced with many trials…”, he meant it. All that unfairness is what God has used and will continue to use to perfect my faith.
I do believe that. But in the last week that belief has been tested. On July 6th 2010, I awoke at 4am after a bad dream. I waited for the sun to rise before calling the friend who was the subject of that dream. She answered the phone and said, “It’s Joe.” This was not just any friend. This is one of my very best. A sister. Joe is her husband. On the day before, at the ripe old age of 44, they discovered that he had brain cancer. I have no great or even justifiable excuses, but I have not done a good job at maintaining communication or offering ongoing encouragement over the last year and a half. Every time I called I felt a little guilty. I’m cancer-free. Unexplainably, undeniably, miraculously, cancer-free. While I’ve embraced the miracle that is my life, my dear friend and her two young children sat and watched the man of their house lose his. Unfair!
Last Wednesday I awoke after a similar dream. This time I waited for the kids to get off to school before I called. Joe had been moved to a hospice center and he was nearing the end. At 4 the following morning I received notice that he had died during the night.
It’s the last day of my fast and the reflecting that I’m doing is drastically different from what I had expected. God has highlighted some amazing truths in the last twenty-one days, but it’s the last three that have proven to be the richest.
You see. In all the years I’ve known Joe, he rejected salvation. He didn’t think he needed God and he didn’t understand how a loving God could allow horrible things to happen. Haven’t we all been there also?
I’m sure Joe is now questioning God about the evils of the world. I can have that certainty because I know that he did have a “come to Jesus” meeting with the chaplain who would perform his funeral just a few short weeks before he died. As a result, his funeral service was the most amazing celebration of life I’ve ever experienced. He wrote letters to his family that were read by the chaplain and followed by songs specially selected for each of them. Joe’s sisters read Psalm 23 and a selection from John 14. It’s the latter that shook me to the core.
John 14:1-3 NCV Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am.
As a little girl I memorized Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter said, “Now I understand that God doesn’t play favorites. Rather, whoever respects God and does what is right is acceptable to him in any nation.
The minute I heard the reading from John 14, I recalled the verse from Acts. Jesus didn’t say that God prepared a place for anybody special. He didn’t say one single thing about fairness or equality. He’s prepared a place for each of us. In the house where God’s family lives, there are rooms for each and every one of us. God doesn’t play favorites and he doesn’t care if you invite Him into your life at the age of five or on your deathbed. He doesn’t care where you come from or what you’ve done or not done or accomplished or failed to accomplish. He just wants you to choose Him.
Joe’s death has hurt. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that my precious friend is widowed. It’s not fair that a 14 year old girl knows that her Dad will never walk her down the aisle. It’s not fair that a 15 year old boy knows that his Dad will not see him graduate from high school or college. It’s not fair that there will be a daughter-in-law and son-in-law and grandchildren who will never know the kindhearted brilliant man that I had the privilege of knowing. But God’s not about fairness in this life. My God is focused on eternity. He’s about making this life as bearable as possible while He prepares a place for us to live out our eternal lives.
On day one of this fast I began asking God to strip away anything in my life that may hinder me from living the exact life He has purposed for me to live. I asked Him to transform me and rearrange my priorities. I also asked Him for something very selfish. I asked Him for the certainty that my dear friend and her husband would someday sit around with me and my dear husband basking in the glow of the presence of God. As undeserving as I am, He answered my prayers.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a God that is not fair.