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Faith Chat: When life isn't fair

Not fair! These are two words every kid knows how to shout when their playground rights have been infringed upon, but you've probably seen an increase in the word "unfair" in a lot of news headlines as well in recent days - Super Bowl forums found the lights delay "unfair," political campaigns spout the word, commerce leaders use it to describe trade deficits between countries, and some business practices are derided with this label. Just like the kids on the playground, we've come to understand the reality that we really don't like it when life isn't fair.

We can see that all things are not equal - some are born shorter than they wanted, or balder than they wanted, or with bigger noses than they wanted, or poorer. Some experience a stock market slide, or a real estate collapse, or a car breakdown or neglectful parents. Many of these issues are beyond our control, but they still set up an unequal playing field.

Although almost everyone experiences some quotient of "unfairness," Christians can face the expected disappointments with a very different attitude because we recognize that God is in control, and He is using every circumstance in our lives, even the bad ones.

The account of Joseph in Genesis 37-40 presents a complete picture of how God orchestrates good times and bad to accomplish His plan. Joseph was sold as a slave by his own brothers when he was only 17 and was taken hundreds of miles from his home to Egypt, where after faithfully serving as a household steward, he was imprisoned for repelling the advances of his master's wife. He gained the trust of the warden while in prison and was "promoted" to the steward of the prison, even though he was still confined there.

God allowed Joseph to interpret the dreams of two of Pharaoh's servants who were serving time, but the servant who was restored to Pharaoh's throne room forgot to mention innocent Joseph to the Pharaoh, until Pharaoh himself had dreams that needed interpretation. Joseph was 30 years old when Pharaoh called him into the throne room to interpret the dreams and afterward promoted him to second in command in all of Egypt.

Up to this point, Joseph had been nothing but a slave or a prisoner all of his adult life. But this paints an appropriate portrait of Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

This is a hard truth to understand; how God can allow bad events in our lives, and then use them. But this account of Joseph demonstrates how Christians cope with unfairness:

• Don't let unfairness define your life. Don't let difficult conditions paralyze you into spiritual inactivity, but press on and develop faith to see that God is in control, and He is working His plan for you. Don't let the immediate conditions keep you from seeing the future. Keep moving forward, even when it seems to no avail.

• Don't let unfairness restrict your faith. Even when the cost for Joseph's morality was imprisonment, he continued to work hard, stand by his morality and rely on God for deliverance.

Unfair conditions are certainly a part of this life, but by understanding Romans 8:28, we can face these conditions differently, looking to God instead of being overwhelmed by unfair circumstances.