Proverbs 31 Ministries

When Life Doesn’t Feel Fair

Kellye Schiffner Carver

KELLYE SCHIFFNER CARVER

October 15, 2018
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“Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” Jeremiah 12:1 (ESV)
Why do bad things happen to good people?

Devotion Graphic

When I was in graduate school, my mother battled lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Arduous chemotherapy caused severe complications and near-death. Her suffering was agonizing to watch, and I wondered why this awful disease had stricken her. How could something so awful happen to someone so good?

When she reached remission, we were thrilled. But only months later, traitorous scans revealed liver cancer. Would the horror never cease?

Maybe you can relate to a devastating diagnosis. Or perhaps a person, rather than circumstances, caused your pain — a dishonest colleague, an unfaithful spouse, a malicious bully or an unreliable friend.

I want to understand the purpose behind suffering. I want to know why offenders sometimes go unpunished — or even thrive. I want things to feel fair! Can you relate?

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah pleaded with God over this: Why does wickedness prosper? He penned these words over 2,500 years ago, and we’re still wondering.

As a prophet, Jeremiah ministered in Judah about 600 years before Christ. Small states like Judah subsisted between ambitious, powerful empires like Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Jeremiah shifted in and out (mostly out) of favor with kings, even imprisoned. He attempted God’s work, but evil seemed to surround him. God’s people — stubborn, corrupt and selfish — turned away from faith, despite Jeremiah’s calls for repentance. God even threatened to withdraw His favor and His covenant. (Jeremiah 16:13)

Does this sound familiar?

Despite God’s desire to see people turn to Him, many believers and nonbelievers alike don’t choose His path. Whether we experience evil at the hands of others or at the crossroads of difficult circumstances, it doesn’t seem fair. Sometimes it feels like God ignores the issue or even blesses sinful behavior. And maybe, like Jeremiah, the wrongdoing looks to us like an obstacle in our calling.

When I wrestle with injustice, Jeremiah’s first sentence gives me pause:Righteous are you, O LORD …(Jeremiah 12:1a). In the original Hebrew language, “righteous” means “just, blameless, innocent,” or to be “in the right.”

Jeremiah doesn’t understand his suffering, yet he affirms God’s righteousness first.

I can definitely work on that. When cancer struck my mom a second time, I was stunned. I wish I could say I immediately went to God, but I was too shocked and too scared.

Jeremiah recognizes God’s character, and trusts this above all. He doesn’t accuse God of wrongdoing. He doesn’t get angry and give God the silent treatment. Instead, when Jeremiah doesn’t understand his circumstances, he admits his struggle and asks the Lord for help. As for me, I was terrified God’s plan would steal my mother from me. I prayed a seemingly impossible prayer, asking for the courage to let her go if that was His plan.

Jeremiah trusts God, even in devastation, and we can follow his example. We worship a fair, loving and merciful God. His ways are not our ways, and we won’t always understand them (Isaiah 55:8), but we can rest in His character and His promises to hear us. The Lord guided my mom through additional treatments and an eventual transplant. To this day, she calls herself a “walking miracle.” However, not everyone sees this result.

God doesn’t immediately remove Jeremiah’s suffering either. In fact, it gets worse before it gets better. But God assures Jeremiah that the wicked will ultimately perish (vv. 7-13), and the invaders will fall (vv. 14-17). And despite the horrific sins of His wayward people, God grants restoration and renewal.

Let’s learn this lesson with Jeremiah: Even in the darkest times, remember and trust God’s character. We can bring Him our discouragement, despair and downfalls. He is a God of justice, even — and sometimes especially — when our circumstances are not what we hoped for.

Lord, I see evil in the world, but I also see You. Help me remember that You are a loving Father weaving all things together for good for those who love You. When I face challenges or injustice, remind me You are my refuge. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Truth For Today

Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (ESV)

Jeremiah 17:7, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” (NIV)

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Related Resources

Has God ever given you an impossible task? A task that seemed so overwhelming you couldn’t help but think, There’s no way God would expect me to do something like this. Join us for Great and Hidden Things, a study on the book of Jeremiah, free in the First 5 app beginning November 5! Click here to learn more.

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Connect

Join thousands around the world in the First 5 app, where we give our first five minutes of the day to God. Want to learn more about Jeremiah? Join us as we complete a chapter-by-chapter study to discover the context, history and teachings of this incredible book! Download the app, here.

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Reflect and Respond

What’s one challenge or injustice you’re struggling to trust God with? Perhaps today is the day to give it to Him.

Join the conversation! Share your thoughts in the comments.

Charles Spurgeon Day/Night

Today’s Reading

Morning

“But who may abide the day of his coming?”
Malachi 3:2

His first coming was without external pomp or show of power, and yet in truth there were few who could abide its testing might. Herod and all Jerusalem with him were stirred at the news of the wondrous birth. Those who supposed themselves to be waiting for him, showed the fallacy of their professions by rejecting him when he came. His life on earth was a winnowing fan, which tried the great heap of religious profession, and few enough could abide the process. But what will his second advent be? What sinner can endure to think of it? “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” When in his humiliation he did but say to the soldiers, “I am he,” they fell backward; what will be the terror of his enemies when he shall more fully reveal himself as the “I am?” His death shook earth and darkened heaven, what shall be the dreadful splendour of that day in which as the living Saviour, he shall summon the quick and dead before him? O that the terrors of the Lord would persuade men to forsake their sins and kiss the Son lest he be angry! Though a lamb, he is yet the lion of the tribe of Judah, rending the prey in pieces; and though he breaks not the bruised reed, yet will he break his enemies with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. None of his foes shall bear up before the tempest of his wrath, or hide themselves from the sweeping hail of his indignation; but his beloved blood washed people look for his appearing with joy, and hope to abide it without fear: to them he sits as a refiner even now, and when he has tried them they shall come forth as gold. Let us search ourselves this morning and make our calling and election sure, so that the coming of the Lord may cause no dark forebodings in our mind. O for grace to cast away all hypocrisy, and to be found of him sincere and without rebuke in the day of his appearing.

Evening

“But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck.”
Exodus 34:20

Every firstborn creature must be the Lord’s, but since the ass was unclean, it could not be presented in sacrifice. What then? Should it be allowed to go free from the universal law? By no means. God admits of no exceptions. The ass is his due, but he will not accept it; he will not abate the claim, but yet he cannot be pleased with the victim. No way of escape remained but redemption–the creature must be saved by the substitution of a lamb in its place; or if not redeemed, it must die. My soul, here is a lesson for thee. That unclean animal is thyself; thou art justly the property of the Lord who made thee and preserves thee, but thou art so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept thee; and it has come to this, the Lamb of God must stand in thy stead, or thou must die eternally. Let all the world know of thy gratitude to that spotless Lamb who has already bled for thee, and so redeemed thee from the fatal curse of the law. Must it not sometimes have been a question with the Israelite which should die, the ass or the lamb? Would not the good man pause to estimate and compare? Assuredly there was no comparison between the value of the soul of man and the life of the Lord Jesus, and yet the Lamb dies, and man the ass is spared. My soul, admire the boundless love of God to thee and others of the human race. Worms are bought with the blood of the Son of the Highest! Dust and ashes redeemed with a price far above silver and gold! What a doom had been mine had not plenteous redemption been found! The breaking of the neck of the ass was but a momentary penalty, but who shall measure the wrath to come to which no limit can be imagined? Inestimably dear is the glorious Lamb who has redeemed us from such a doom.

Daily Devotional

God Heals by Humbling

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” (Isaiah 57:18–19)

In spite of the severity of man’s disease of rebellion and willfulness, God will heal. How will he heal? Verse 15 says that God dwells with the crushed and humble. Yet the people of verse 17 are brazenly pursuing their own proud way. What will a healing be?

It can only be one thing. God will heal them by humbling them. He will cure the patient by crushing his pride. If only the crushed and humble enjoy God’s fellowship (v. 15), and if Israel’s sickness is a proud and willful rebellion (v. 17), and if God promises to heal them (v. 18), then his healing must be humbling and his cure must be a crushed spirit.

Isn’t this Isaiah’s way of prophesying what Jeremiah called the new covenant and Jeremiah called a new heart? He said, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel . . . I will put my law within them and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:31, 33).

Isaiah and Jeremiah both see a time coming when a sick, disobedient, hard-hearted people will be supernaturally changed. Isaiah speaks of healing. Jeremiah speaks of writing the law on their hearts.

So the healing of Isaiah 57:18 is a major heart transplant — the old hardened, proud, willful heart is taken out and a new soft, tender heart is put in which is easily humbled and crushed by the memory of sin and the sin that remains.

This is a heart that the lofty One whose name is Holy can dwell with and give life to.

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