Life Isn’t Fair – and We’re Glad

Over the last few days, Kristi and I have been reading a wonderful book called A Grace Disguised. A good friend of mine recommended it to me years ago, and I promptly purchased it, only to leave it untouched on the shelf ever since. But Kristi suggested that we read something encouraging and that book popped into my mind. We have been immensely blessed by it so far.

The author, Jerry Sittser, faced sudden and catastrophic loss when a drunk driver hit the van he was driving, killing his wife, his youngest daughter, and his mother. Three generations – wiped out in an instant. Making matters worse, when the case went to trial, the drunk driver’s attorney managed to get him off. Can you imagine experiencing the nightmare of such a tragedy and then a miscarriage of justice?

It isn’t fair!

There isn’t anything fair about a father losing a daughter, or husband losing a wife, or a son losing a mother. There isn’t anything fair about Kristi’s battle with rectal cancer at such a young age and less than a year into our marriage. And you have your stories to share that painfully illustrate the unfairness of life.

But as Sittser described his own frustration with the unfairness of his loss, he made a point that really resonated with us. Just as it is the case that we experience many tragic losses that are unfair, we also enjoy many gifts in life that we do not deserve. Life, love, joy, beauty. Merit has nothing to do with any of these things. They are displays of God’s grace. As Sittser writes:

So, God spare us a life of fairness! To live in a world of grace is better by far than to live in a world of absolute fairness. A fair world may make life nice for us, but only as nice as we are. We may get what we deserve, but I wonder how much that is and whether or not we would really be satisfied. A world with grace will give us more than we deserve. It will give us life, even in our suffering.

We read that paragraph Tuesday night. The next morning, Kristi had an appointment with a chiropractor. As we started to load up, we noticed that our garage door was broken – one of the rollers was mangled. I had tried to fix it, but in a display of my typical mechanical ability, I failed. In the midst of all our stress, it doesn’t take much of a straw to break the camel’s back, and when I saw that the door was broken, I became unhinged (!).

After Kristi’s adjustment, we decided to pop by a Krispy Kreme donut shop because they were giving out free pumpkin spice donuts. But when we pulled into the drive-thru, we learned that the giveaway was the day before. The person on the other end of the speaker then said, “But I’ll go ahead and give it to you anyway.” And then when we pulled up to the window, she decided to give us several more for no charge (Kristi had a neck brace on from the adjustment, so we joked later that we got the free donuts because she looked so puny!).

I realize a few free donuts isn’t much in the scheme of things, but that day, at that moment, it was a blessing. And it got us to thinking about how many blessings we received that day that were totally undeserved. Earlier in the morning, we obtained a coupon to reduce our copay for a new drug to zero – and the pharmacy took the initiative to make sure we knew about it. Kristi’s adjustment was free because our chiropractor is a dear friend from church who had employed Kristi part-time for the last four years. And last night another great friend from church gave us some delicious mini-bunt cakes (we ate well yesterday!).

Life indeed is not fair. Sometimes we face that which is cruel and heartbreaking. But sometimes we receive generous and uplifting gifts that remind us of the good we do not deserve. This is why it is so important to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), to see that our lives are not totally defined by loss and pain, and that to ask “Why me?” is not only appropriate when we suffer, but also when we are blessed.





  1. As I read this, I’m reminded of the answer Dave Ramsey provides to people when they ask him how he’s doing…

    “Better than I deserve. Better than I deserve.”

    Your writing (and the author’s) is spot-on because if we truly were given what we deserve…well, I don’t want to dwell on how awful life would be. It is as I reminded one of the young high school girls from church I try to mentor… we can always have joy even in the most sorrowful times, because our joy isn’t dictated by circumstances but in our faith in our great merciful Father.

    Much love and prayers (and donuts) to you both.

  2. Gary and Crystal Mullins

    September 20, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    You two are an inspiration! I battled 3a breast cancer spread to lymph nodes while I was pregnant with our 4rth child at the age of 29. I was given with treatment a 50% chance of survival and of course none without immediate action. Which meant putting my baby in danger. I was the first in SouthWest Va, maybe even farther, to be treated while pregnant and it was trial. They had no idea what it would do to him. But without doing it neither of us would have lived. So I had to hand it all to God!. We received so many blessings from God through so many people. Brothers and sisters in Christ, family, friends and strangers. The pain, fear, and loss of control taught me and my husband so many lessons we might not have learned otherwise, especially in such a short lenght of time. It pushed us to grow spiritually. The blessings, grace, mercy and growth we gained I wouldn’t trade to be spared the suffering I endured physically and emotionally and the lifetime of side effects and change that has occurred.
    My heart aches for you both. Me and my husband know what it is like to have to talk about the if I don’t make. You are in our prayers. And I wish there were words of comfort to make things better. But from experience I know that is not possible. Knowing though that you have a mighty God and a bright future which ever way it goes and a family of God who cries and hurts with you does help make it bareable.
    We will continue to pray! Much love from Gary and Crystal Mullins and the church in Clintwood Va.

    • Shane

      September 20, 2018 at 10:34 pm

      Thank you – incidentally, my friend who recommended this book was none other than Philip Mullins! Small world!

  3. Thank you for the perspective on life is not fair, and for reminding us that for many reasons we can be thankful it is not. Love you both and have you in my daily thoughts and prayers.

  4. Thank you for sharing. Prayers for and love to you both.

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