Grappling With Unfairness

This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
FPCE parish nurse.

Dear friends,

Life is unfair.

As children, most of us were taught to share, wait our turn and, of course, don’t take what doesn’t belong to us. However, as we grow up, we learn that keeping these rules does not necessarily make everything equal.

We all have dreams for our lives. No matter how hard we try, they rarely go according to plan. Perhaps you gave your heart freely to someone you love, and they left you. Perhaps you worked hard at the same company for years and they let you go from your job. Perhaps you stayed in shape and took care of your body and yet now are struggling with a chronic physical or mental illness. Perhaps, despite working to be safe and cautious, you’re now grappling with the aftermath of someone deliberately harming you or someone you love.

Any one of these disappointments can be devastating. The most logical follow-up question when these happen is why? Why me? Why my life? Why now?

Many of us grew up believing that sharing and being good to others will ensure that life will be fair. We learn as adults (through illness, accidents, crimes, natural disasters and from the hurts that others cause) us that life is not fair.

In Ecclesiastes 9:11 we read:

“I have seen something else under the sun: the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”

So, now that we have determined that life is unfair, what do we do?

You may believe that God and others have failed you; you want someone or something to blame. It is normal to feel that way, and you may need a significant amount of time to adjust and examine your feelings.

You’re not alone. Jesus at his crucifixion cried out, “My God, my God why did you abandon me?” (Mark 15:34b). Even Jesus realized that life is unfair. Like us, he cried for help!

When we are anxious or depressed, however, we often shrink back from seeking out others. We seem to think the tools to help ourselves are just innately within us. The reality is that we rarely learn the skills needed to deal with the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one ahead of time. If we face the humanness in all of us, we quickly realize that it’s not realistic to have all the answers to various life situations.

But having developed the incredible courage to seek out help, there is a further step to be taken.

We have to accept help when it comes to us.

I have a favorite story (you may have heard before):

A man (who, let’s say, lived in Chicago), always watched the evening news for the weather report. One evening, the newscaster said that people in his area should evacuate their homes because of huge rain storms that would result in flooding in his neighborhood.

“That’s okay, he thought, “I know these reports can be wrong and, besides, if it does flood, I know God will save me.” So, the man went to bed and slept soundly, until he woke to the sound of water pouring into his bedroom. He jumped out of bed and climbed the stairs to his attic. Within hours, the water was flooding his attic. He found an axe, chopped a hole in the roof, and managed to use a chair to climb up through the hole, and ended up out the roof of his house. To his surprise, the water kept rising.

A boat soon came by and those inside offered him a ride, but the man said, “Thank you very much, but I have faith in God and I know that I will be okay. He will save me if I need help.” The boat left him on the roof of his house.

Later, a helicopter came along, hovered above him, and dropped a ladder down for him to climb. “No thank you!,” he shouted up to the helicopter crew. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me! I know he will save me!” Despite the pleas of the crew, he refused to climb the ladder. The helicopter flew away.

Finally, the waters rose to the peak of the house and swept the man way to his death.

Soon he appeared in heaven before God. The man was distressed. He had been faithful to God and believed what had happened to him was unfair. So, he addressed God saying, “I have believed in you all my life. I put my trust in you, I attended church, I lived by the commandments, I helped my brothers and sisters whenever I could, and yet still you let me drown. That was not fair.”

God responded by saying, “I don’t know what you are complaining about. I sent you a weather report that told you to get out of the house, but you ignored it. So, I gave you ears to hear when the water came to your bedroom, but you slept through the storm. I gave you strong legs to walk to the attic and strong arms to cut the hole in the roof. Then I sent you a boat and finally a helicopter, but you ignored that help too. I don’t know what else I could’ve done.”

Everyone has a story, and healing–whether it is in body, mind or spirit–can only start when we ask for help. However, the help is not effective until we accept it. We all hurt and feel vulnerable at times, and often cannot (and should not) manage this pain alone.

So, have faith and–unlike in the story–take advantage of the help God sends:

  • Let the Counseling Center staff be the weather report to advise you.
  • Let Stephen Ministry be the ears to listen to you.
  • Let Friends in Christ be the strong legs to support you.
  • Let Knitting Ministry be the strong arms to comfort you.
  • Let Pastor Ray, Pastor Henry or myself be the boat to carry you and the helicopter to help you soar in a time of need.

Let me leave you with the words of Henri Nouwen: “We have not been promised a life free from sorrow, but one in which joy will have the last word.”

Walking with you in God’s world,

Julie Ruchniewicz

FPCE Parish Nurse

This Sunday, Rev. Bob Hecker will be preaching from Ephesians 4:17-24. His message is entitled “From Darkness to Light.” Come join us!