We are surrounded by unfairness.
Too often, we find undeserving people are in dire situations while those who seem to deserve some misfortune strut happily along.
For some of us, it strikes so close to home, as we find ourselves voicing the proverbial “why me?”
Sometimes it hits close to home in a different way. Recently I witnessed a debilitating illness take down someone I love and respect dearly. And as I tried to grapple with reality, I caught myself thinking how really tired I was of seeing good people get sick while I still stand upright.
I share that raw moment not for sympathy, but for the sake of transparency, and because at one time or another, something similar may have gone through your mind. It’s not something we typically admit out loud.
All that aside, the bottom line is: What do we do with that unfairness? Do we rail and cry and yell “Unfair!” like a frustrated child? Do we shake our fist at God or society or the universe in general? Do we just shut down and not care anymore?
As hard as this is, and as much as it may sound like a tired old cliché, the only thing we can do with it is trust that God is in control of it.
Let’s take a look at a nearly 2,000-year-old case study.
Acts 7:58 is the first place in the Bible that we are introduced to a man named Saul. And it’s not a very good introduction.
“Then they cast him [Stephen] out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
Saul is overseeing the unjust stoning (a.k.a., murder) of one of the most godly men of the budding Church. He’s not casting any stones himself, but he has helped to get the people stirred up, turned them loose, and taken on the role of watching their coats for them while they took care of things.
To any observer who knows the life and character of both men, Saul should have been stoned while Stephen lived a long life.
Here’s what we know of Stephen from Acts 6 and 7. He is knowledgeable, passionate, loyal to Jesus Christ and His church, a selfless and compassionate servant. He is bold, brave, and unafraid.
Contrast that to what we see of Saul (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-2): hateful, hurtful, heartless, and filled with resentment. He hides behind edicts that he receives from the high priests and travels with a cohort of men to help him carry out his dastardly work.
Now, returning to Acts 7:58…who deserves to die?
But then, we read through the rest of the New Testament, and get the rest of the story (shout-out to Paul Harvey for those who still remember him). And it dawns on us that God knew precisely what He was doing.
Stephen was prepared to meet His Savior that day. He had a relationship with Jesus Christ and knew that whatever happened, eternity was laid out before him.
Stephen would be an inspiration to those in the early church, and remains an inspiration to believers.
Acts 8:1 tells us that the persecution that ensued after Stephen’s death caused the church to spread and the Gospel to reach parts of the world that it had not reached previously.
As for Saul, after Acts 9:3 he would be known as the Apostle Paul, and would turn the known world on its ear.
Paul would start churches all over the Roman empire.
Paul would stand his ground against Jewish leaders and Roman officials alike.
Paul would endure treacherous terrain, hunger, weather, assaults, shipwrecks, and unfair accusations (see 2 Cor 11:23-28).
So next time things seem so unfair, remember this: every single event or circumstance you witness is another moving part in God’s great orchestration. It may not make sense today, and it may hurt like mad, but in the long run He is doing amazing things!