If you felt there was an element of fairness to life, it would only be a matter of time before that notion was shattered. Life is not fair. When I speak of life being fair, we have this thought that service to God is rewarded, evil is punished. Why should sinners succeed when saints suffer?
Insights into this can be gleamed from David Epstein’s book, Range, where he speaks of wicked and kind problems. Kind problems are like a game of chess or golf: every decision provides instant feedback. You know near instantly whether a decision was good or not. There is little ambiguity about the feedback, no miscommunication.
Contrasting this are wicked problems. Decisions we make do not give us immediate feedback. We do not always know the outcome of a decision immediately, nor are we certain how that feedback will be communicated, or when we will even get the outcome.
This brings us to the wickedness of God. Not that God is wicked, but that grappling with understanding the why of happenings is a wicked problem when seeking to understand God and his ways.
When God is unfair
Scripture is no foreigner to the issue of wickedness when saints appear to suffer while those in rebellion to God prosper.
Psalm 73 brings us home to this issue, not because it speaks of the pain of seeing God’s enemies prospering, but it also touches on the uncertainty the saint is left with questioning his own devotion to God.
In verses 1 to 3, the psalmist speaks of God’s goodness to Israel, yet declares,
“I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the property of the wicked” (verse 3).
The psalmist goes on to lament over the ways in which the wicked prosper: they have no ills, no trouble, no needs, no poverty. And the psalmist’s response is to declare that his own ways in service to God have been in vain.
It is only once God reveals to the psalmist the fate of the wicked that the tone of the psalm changes in its second half. Yet this is too easy to forget and too often it seems that only sin brings prosperity and we are left wondering why God would permit it.
When God is beyond us
If we seek to begin to understand the workings of God in what we consider to be fair or unfair, not only do we hit a brick wall, we find this metaphorical brick wall stretches into eternity unless God makes himself known.
Isaiah chapter 55, verses 8 to 9 read,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
We cannot begin to comprehend the workings of God. In the face of uncertainty and strife, the dealings of God and his thoughts are a mystery to us. In the face of his sovereignty, we cannot claim to understand his ways unless he makes them known to us.
But often we do not get the luxury of this knowledge. Rather, we are left with something far simpler, far more difficult to grasp.
When grace is sufficient
While we wait to understand the ways of God, suffering continues to feel senseless. Paul, in his own life, was no stranger to this, and he yearned with God to be relieved of what he describes as a thorn in his flesh.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Verses 8 to 10, he writes,
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
In our weakness does God most magnificently make himself known. If we should yearn to see God’s majesty more and know him more, may we seek to see him more in our sufferings.
We may not know the reasons behind the circumstances around us and we may feel that because life seems wicked and unknown, God is also wicked and unknown.
Yet, while we may not understand the why of life, we begin to see that God is kind in that while our actions often should deserve immediate wrath, God shows grace upon grace for his saints, his children.
Hailing from North Auckland, Blake Gardiner sounds American, looks Swedish, but grew up in Laos. As an introvert, Blake lives life on the edge by socialising. When he isn’t putting his life at such risk, he enjoys reading theology and debating whether Interstellar is truly the greatest movie of all time. Blake is married to fellow young writer Jessica Gardiner.