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Thursday, January 21, 2016
Struggling with Injustice in Your Life?
IT JUST ISN’T FAIR!
One of my readers raised a question with me, that I suspect many of us have struggled with in one form or another. While experiencing a long drawn out divorce, with a lot of dirty tricks by the opposing side, my reader observed another whose divorce was quick and clean. In anguish, the reader wrestled with why their own divorce was such a mess and God didn’t provide the kind of deliverance the other person had experienced. I would suggest that if you have an easy answer for that question, you are probably wrong. Life is much messier than our easy answers would imply. I would like, however, to offer some thoughts.
Whenever someone goes to court, the center of justice in our society, one is hopeful, maybe even expectant, that the decisions that will be rendered will be fair and just. However, even when I taught my philosophy class, the college students were fully aware that our court system often falls short of the ideal called “justice.” Even the best of intentions can become warped with the process. John Grisham has illustrated some of the extremes of injustices in many of his novels about lawyers and their interactions at court. Sadly, individuals caught in the process of divorce can experience the same kinds of frustrations and disappointments with the court and with their attorneys, some of whom may not always be serving the best interest of their client or mindful of their client’s financial resources. This is but one of the illustrations of how imperfect the world we live in is; even the best of institutions fall short of true justice at times, because they, too, are staffed by imperfect human beings.
A second consideration might be how the process is approached. Imagine a ball game in which one team meticulously observes every rule while the other pushes every limit by cheating whenever possible and doing whatever it takes to win (as long as they don’t get caught). “Deflategate” and steroids are two words that come to mind! Much as we like to believe that “cheaters never win”, often those who are willing to bend the rules and play dirty come away ahead in the game. I think back to the Enron scandal, where the man at the top walked away with millions in dirty money, while the good, hardworking individuals in the ranks found their pensions robbed by those they trusted. Sometimes divorce in court is a mess because one of the individuals and/or their attorney are willing to make it a mess. Some do so to deprive an ex of money they deserve, some do it to inflict pain, some do these things because they are caught up in anger and hurt…there could be lots of reasons. The point is, though, that sometimes divorce is messy because one individual chooses to make it that way. In these cases, I personally find comfort in remembering that although it may appear they are getting away with it all now, when the ultimate justice is dispensed by God, those individuals will have an awful lot to answer for and God’s justice does not play games.
While the things above are true, they don’t help much when you are the one caught in the struggle of the injustice. It is a hard thing to feel trapped, cheated, and struggling while others are able to move on in life with few entanglements holding them back. Knowing that courts aren’t perfect, or that an ex is manipulating things does not make it easier to endure. And, if you are a person of faith, sometimes it is a hard thing to understand why God has left you in such a difficult situation when others have been delivered. I would like to offer a few feeble thoughts on this dilemma.
Let’s first acknowledge that even being in divorce means we are in a realm already far short of God’s ideal. Marriage for a lifetime was the plan in the Garden, and only because of our fallen state in sinfulness did God make provision for divorce in the laws of Moses. Second, I would remind us that none of us are immune to the adversities of life. A quick review of the life of Paul—one of God’s greatest servants—would remind us that following Christ does not also guarantee an easy life here. The guarantee is a meaningful life here with God always at your side, and a glorious eternal life in his presence forever. Jesus pointed out that the rain falls on the just and unjust, and illustrates such “randomness” by mentioning a tower in Siloam that fell on whomever happened to be there. (see Matthew 5 and Luke 13)
I shared with my reader the interaction of Jesus with Peter at the end of John 21, in which Jesus described to Peter the manner in which his life would end. In response, Peter asked about John, and Jesus replied with a statement that basically means, “that has nothing to do with you…you focus on your own relationship with me and leave my relationship with John to me and John.” While it may be harsh to hear when we are struggling, it is true that how God works things out for somebody else is between them and God. God’s reasons are not always obvious and clear, and I have learned that while I think I might like what somebody else experiences, I don’t always know the full story and there are sometimes other factors I would NOT want to experience. God tailors each of our lives experiences according to a personally designed plan for each of us. At the same time, Satan does the same when he tries to undermine our faith and bring us down…he knows which attacks are useless and which will have effect.
The assurances we have from God in times such as these are clear: God will go through the fire with us, and never leave us alone (even though we can feel very alone at times). God’s plans for us are for our ultimate good, even if they don’t feel so good at the time. Following God through those tough times instead of going our own way will always produce the best results. God will forgive when we stumble and fall or make mistakes along the way. God is sufficient, his help can get us through, he does notice each thing we suffer and struggle with, and his answers are the best in light of eternity and his ultimate plans.
Those truths are hard to cling to when the winds of adversity batter hard at us, but they are also the only eternal truths to which we can cling with any assurance. And I have always enjoyed the story about the man whose favorite words from the Bible were, “it came to pass,” because he rejoiced that the troubles never came to stay!
Divorce is an awful enough tragedy on its own. When the process adds additional troubles, or a cantankerous ex decides to inflict misery, it can become a devastating experience. But even then, it only comes to pass! And God promises to walk with you day by day, whether you can sense his presence or not. Eventually, the day comes when the gavel falls, the children are grown and you begin to see the future God still is planning for your life. That, by the way, is the explanation of the covers of my books, for the first volume is gray, cold and desolate, addressing those awful days of divorce. The second volume is green and verdant, and addresses the new life that begins to spring on the other side of the court experience. If you are in the throes of the struggle, I encourage you to hang on, because when you make it to the other side, you will find there yet remains hope.