Learning that life is not fair is the worst part of growing up. I remember saying “but that’s not fair!” when my little sister got stuff I didn’t. I also said “life is so unfair” when I realized other kids had loving parents, food in the fridge, swimming lessons, family get-togethers, dogs, cats.
Then my grandma died, and I realized that life really isn’t fair. When you lose the only person who completely and totally loved you, your world shifts from “life isn’t fair” to “God doesn’t care about me.” Or even worse: “God hates me.”
You start to think an unfair life proves you don’t matter to God. When life isn’t fair, you question everything: your family, friends, faith, and future. I don’t know exactly how you feel or why your life isn’t fair, but I do know how I feel. I also know what helps. I know what I need to remember when my life feels unfair and unjust. I think my tips — my three things to remember when life isn’t fair — will help you find the hope and comfort you need.
I grew up with a single mom who was severely mentally ill. I moved in and out of foster homes, and was living on my own at 17. Life wasn’t fair, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t have a dad or family to help me, and I shut out my grandma in many ways. That wasn’t fair to her, and it wasn’t fair to me…but I didn’t know better.
Then, when my grandma died, I realized that I treated her unfairly and unkindly. She loved me more than anyone on earth, and I shrugged her off. I dismissed her, thinking that my life was so unfair and I was so unlucky and unloved. I didn’t realize that she — my very own grandmother — was one thing I needed to remember and hold on to. She was a gift from God, a blessing in my life, and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
Don’t let this happen to you. Your life may not be fair, but you need to remember and hold on to what you do have.
What to Remember When Life Isn’t Fair
This article is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project, and it’s inspired by Genesis 25. You don’t have to believe in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to find the hope and comfort you’re looking for. Just open your mind and heart to these ways to cope when life isn’t fair.
1. God isn’t trying to hurt you or ruin your life
Reading Genesis 25 this morning astounded me. All these people in this first book of the Bible — Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau — were living lives almost completely out of their control! Not to mention Keturah, Eliezer, and all the other people affected by God’s plans. They were born into their families, cultures, lifestyles, bodies and personalities. They had little say about where they lived, who they lived with, and how their lives would unfold. Some had more power to control their own destinies than others…but life was not fair for all of them. At different times, in different ways, every single person experienced an unfair, unjust, uneven life in some way. And yet some of them continued to look to God for strength, hope, help and guidance. They prayed, and some grew in faith. They didn’t let their circumstances — their unfair lives — dictate how they felt or acted.
When life isn’t fair, who do you turn to? When I was angry and hurt because I didn’t have any advantages growing up — or even as an adult — I didn’t turn to people who could actually help me. Instead, I ate and gained weight. I struggled with an eating disorder and sabotaged my relationships. I felt like nobody cared about me, especially not God. I certainly didn’t read articles like What to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares.
How do you cope when life isn’t fair? What do you need to remember? I don’t have your answers; only you do. But if you lift your head and open your heart, you will find the hope and help you need. If you reach up to God and out to people who care about you, you will start to feel better.
2. You have power to change some things
In Genesis 25 Jacob knew exactly what he wanted: Esau’s birthright. Jacob wanted his father Isaac’s blessing and inheritance, and he manipulated Esau into giving it up. That wasn’t fair! Esau, too, know exactly what he wanted: red stew because he was famished after a long day’s work. So he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. That wasn’t fair, either! But both men knew exactly what they wanted. And they got it.
What does a “fair life” mean to you? “Few people know what they want,” says bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver in How to Hold on to Hope When Life Seems Hopeless. “Most people can’t even think what to hope for when they throw a penny in a fountain.”
You know why and how your life isn’t fair…but what do you want? I wanted a real mom and dad more than anything — and I still do. I desperately wish I had loving parents and a firm foundation of security and family. That’s what I want, but I’ll never get it. I can’t change my childhood, but I can follow God’s direction for my life. I hear Jesus calling and I sense the Holy Spirit guiding me. All three feel like an inner knowing, an intuition or gut instinct. And it no longer bothers me that life isn’t fair. Here’s what you need to remember when life isn’t fair: It’s never been fair, not for anyone. But it can be more meaningful, deep, and full of joy than you could ever have planned or imagined.
3. You can choose to take one step forward
Jacob and Esau had very different personalities and lives in Genesis 25. They were loved differently by their parents, Isaac and Rebekah. Their lives weren’t fair because their parents played favorites. Their lives weren’t fair because they had different skills and abilities, given by God even before they were born. So what did they do? Esau became a skilled outdoorsman; Jacob quietly schemed at home. They didn’t dwell on the fact that life isn’t fair. They didn’t get hung up on the past or their current griefs or pains. They lived.
What do you hope for? “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for,” writes Kingsolver in Animal Dreams. “And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.”
Remember this when life isn’t fair: We have nothing but what we receive. All we can do is work with what God gives us. If we’re smart, we not only believe God cares for us and really does want the best for us….we also know that we are only part of His story. Our lives matter to Him, but God has more going on behind the scenes than we’ll ever realize!
Decide that you will go beyond the “life isn’t fair” struggle. Choose to learn who Jesus, and to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him. When you’re in touch with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t matter if life isn’t fair. You’re filled with a power, hope, love, faith, joy, peace and freedom that goes beyond everything else.
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
Your thoughts — big and little — are welcome below!
With His love,
P.S. Are you struggling to make a decision or find the right path in your life? Read an Easy Way to Stop Overthinking God’s Will for Your Life.