When Life is Unfair…

What do you do when life is unfair? Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was wrongly accused and imprisoned. If anyone had a right to be depressed or downcast, Joseph did. But instead of remaining confined in the prison of his circumstances, Joseph looked around. We can find this account in Genesis 40.

Joseph noticed the sadness of the cupbearer and baker who had also been imprisoned. Even though he had been falsely imprisoned, treated with terrible injustice, he was compassionate toward others.

Focusing on your own problems only makes them worse, not better. Too many of us are in a prison of sorts—prison of circumstances or a prison of choices (our own or those others have made for us).

But focusing on our own problems is not a solution. I remember a number of years ago where a counselor at our church was leaving for a couple weeks on a trip. He was regularly counseling a lady through her sufferings and difficulties. He asked if someone could meet with her in his absence. I volunteered, mostly in order to gain some experience. This woman had a difficult life. But her biggest challenge was that she had seen a counselor (not my friend, but a secular one) who had taught her to focus on herself and get herself in a right place. I counseled, as did my friend, that she focus on others. What she needed was to see the hurt in others and focus her energy on helping someone else. But she couldn’t see past her own problems, her own suffering, her own prison. Every relationship she had, she had damaged, some irreparably. Her problems, difficulties and challenges were center-stage.

Regardless of the challenges you face or the issues you deal with (of your own making or someone else’s), the solution is not to live in them or focus on them. The solution, best applied when we realize we are loved and cared for by God, is to focus on how we can encourage someone else or improve their plight. The most delightful people to be around are the ones who care deeply about others and invest in them. They are the ones who focus their energy on you and your issues, rather than retreating deeper into their own prisons of unfair situations.

How do we notice? How do we focus on the needs of others rather than get caught up in our own circumstances? We are able to embrace a lifestyle of noticing, encouraging and serving when we apply the gospel to our situations and circumstances. The gospel—that Jesus suffered and died on a cruel cross and rose from the dead so we could be forgiven and made new—is the entry point into salvation as well as the maturing influence in our daily lives. The gospel teaches us that we are not isolated in our suffering, that our suffering is not permanent and that our suffering can be overcome. Jesus suffered separation and punishment for sin on the cross. Jesus suffered and died, but also rose to his permanent home in heaven. Jesus experienced resurrection and glory from the Father overcoming sin, suffering and death. Because Jesus suffered, we don’t have to feel alone in suffering. Because Jesus brought us into his family, our permanent experience is heaven, and we don’t have to be paralyzed by our suffering . Because Jesus overcame sin, suffering and death, we can overcome because we are victorious in him. And when we experience the blessings that come with the gospel, we have the privilege and right to encourage others with the gospel love we’ve experienced as well.  

When you focus on your situation, you become stranded. When you focus on your Savior, you can receive relief and release. Joseph was not defined by his prison—because he was defined by the Lord’s favor—as found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What defines you? Your prison? Or the favor of God as you share with someone else?

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