I am determined that Thou shalt be above all….Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honour, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family (emphasis mine), my health, and even life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase…. A.W. Tozer

“It’s not fair!” was an oft-heard phrase in our home when our two daughters were growing up.

“Today at school, Mr. Harder…,” Karen, our daughter, would begin. A woeful tale of some supposed injustice would follow, ending with “It’s not fair!” Or Treesa, our second daughter, might lament, “It’s not fair that I always have to wash the dishes alone. Why can’t Karen help?” On and on, week after week, it went—an all-too-familiar story to parents. “You know what?” I’d reply to the plaintive “It’s-not-fair” cry. “Life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that you should have a Daddy and Mommy who love you. Many children are unwanted and unloved; many are treated cruelly. You were born in a country where there’s no fighting. Many kids go to bed to the sound of bombs exploding around them night after night. They know nothing but war. That’s not fair.   And it’s not fair that you have plenty of food. All over the world lots of children don’t know what it would feel like to have full tummies. No, life isn’t fair. Sometimes it even seems that God isn’t fair.”

Recently I discovered the ugly “It’s not fair!” attitude lurking in my own heart. Karen brought her two sons and came to visit us in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where we serve as Bible translators. En route she stopped in the Philippines where Treesa and her husband teach at Faith Academy, a school for MKs. There she picked up our four-year-old granddaughter and brought her along, too. What a glorious, though tiring, three weeks we enjoyed with our wonderful grandchildren, Ricky, Michael and Alyssa. Then they left. My house, heart and arms felt empty. Silence echoed through each room of my now too-big house. My heart felt squeezed into a tiny, hard ball. My arms ached both figuratively and literally. Grandchildren-play is fun but hard on grandma-muscles. But grandchildren-absence is even more difficult!

“It’s not fair!” was right on the tip of my torn emotions, seeking to express itself in words. But of course, I’m too old to say that! Or at least anywhere but in the shower where only God could hear.

I was tempted to remind the Lord that many grandmothers can zip across town to spend an hour, a day, or a night with their grandchildren. My grandsons live half-a-world away. And although Alyssa and Kendra are only a fourth-of-a world away, airfare from PNG to the Philippines is expensive. Some grandmas can pick up the phone and, for a few cents, chat with their grandkids. But phone calls from PNG to the USA and the Philippines are budget breaking.

But why remind the Lord of all that? He already knew it. So I cried as a hot shower relaxed my aching muscles but failed to relax my cold, complaining heart. It was almost Christmas, the time of “Joy to the World.” How could I get over the “It’s not fair!” self-pity syndrome that was sapping not only my joy but my energy as well?

Christmas. Yes, that’s it. When God gave His beloved Son that first Christmas, He was operating on love, not fairness. Love for you and for me. No, Christmas isn’t “fair”; John 3:16 isn’t “fair.”

It’s not “fair” that God should love me, an undeserving sinner. But, oh, how I thank my gracious Father that He “so loved the world” (John 3:16). That includes me!

It isn’t fair that God was separated from Jesus, His beloved Son. He left His Father to die for my sins. I praise God that because He loved “He gave His one and only Son….” But it wasn’t a matter of being fair. Not at all.

It’s not fair that I should be born into a kingdom of peace. But thank You, God, that the angel’s announcement of “Peace on earth” included my heart and life. Thank You that John 3:16 assures me that “whoever believes in Him…has eternal life.”

It’s not fair that I should be able to feast on God’s Word, served up in a language I understand. Many of God’s children hunger for His Word in their own language. They have never read in their heart-language that “…God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s why this long-distance grandma has spent so many years in PNG as a Bible translator.

It’s Christmas Eve now. Earlier, as I reflected on God’s love, a hot shower washed away more than my early morning garden grime; my grandma-grief went, too. I felt those ubiquitous words, “It’s not fair!” recede from the tip of my tongue as the muscles of my heart relaxed in the warmth of His love.


Father God, thank You that You didn’t operate on “fairness” but on love when You sent Your Son to die for our sins! Thank You that You are a loving, just God!


This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).


What thoughts of self-pity are lurking in my mind and heart that are causing me to feel that “God is not fair to me”?

Aretta Loving and her husband are members of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT). After serving almost 40 years overseas, they now live in the USA. “God is not Fair” is taken from Aretta’s book Slices of Life from the Plate of a Bible Translator, available from WBT, Box 2727, Huntington Beach, CA 92647 or from the author, Aretta Loving, 6901 Cinder Run, Waxhaw, NC 28173 for $12.00 (includes postage and mailing envelope). Aretta’s favorite Christmas carol is Joy to the World and her favorite Christmas cookie? “Are there any other kinds of cookies?”


©1999 Thrive

View the original print magazine where this article was first published.