The Power of Thankfulness When Life Isn’t Fair

The friend in this article has read it and has given me her permission to share this story anonymously.

One fall afternoon, a couple of 22-year-olds set out on a walk in the park with a peppermint tea and a hazelnut latte.

I could tell my friend was having a tough time. The furrowed brow and anxiety on her face gave it away. As we talked, she shared what was going on.

She was struggling with where she was in life, complaining about how all of the things God had promised her at 16 were still not even close to being fulfilled yet. Rambling on about what she still didn’t have. Watching her friends be blessed with exactly what she had wanted. Feeling like the passed-over “good” son in the prodigal story, watching her Father celebrate and favor the one who had abandoned and mistreated his gifts, while she herself had remained faithful and honored him.

It wasn’t fair.

“I’ve done everything to the best of my ability. I haven’t thrown away or wasted what he has given me. I haven’t left him to seek out and pursue my own selfish desires. I’ve been faithful every day even when it’s been hard. And yet, he chooses to withhold from me, while lavishly giving to those who have done the opposite.”

Looking at it from our perspective, she was completely right. This was not fair. How could a just God treat his beloved and faithful child this way? It seemed almost cruel.

What parent rewards the child who throws a temper tantrum, storms off, and disrespects their mom and dad? What parent promises a treat to their child, and then makes that child wait and wait and wait, not answering any of their questions about when it might be time, ignoring that child’s obedience and good behavior?

It doesn’t make sense.

Not until you learn what’s been right in front of us all along. The truth.

“God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust alike.” Matthew 5:45

It’s right there for all of us to see. Rain was (and still is) a sign of favor on the land, as it promised crops would be watered and flourish – the opposite of a difficult drought.

Picture in your mind two farmers – one a good and just man, the other a lying, cheating, selfish man, in it only for his own benefit. Those two farmers live on either sides of town, yet, the rain falls on both of their land. God does not only bless the righteous. He also blesses those who have no desire to be righteous, even those who laugh at His ways.

Why does He do this?

Let me ask another question: How will that selfish, lying farmer ever come to know God for who he truly is, if he is not shown extravagant grace and mercy when he does not deserve it? Could it be that mercy may be the very thing that changes that farmer’s heart toward God? Could it be that God’s kindness will lead that farmer to repentance?

It is not our business what God gives or doesn’t give to those around us. It is His sovereignty that calls the shots. We cannot fully know why God does what He does. We can remember grace and mercy, but we will never truly understand His ways.

What, then, for the good farmer who sees his crops growing at a slower rate than the bad farmer? What must he wrestle with?

Perhaps he needs to learn a thing or two about grace and mercy. Perhaps he needs to learn a thing or two about comparison, and thankfulness. Perhaps he needs a better picture of God’s character. Maybe he doesn’t know God as well as he thought.

My friend and I keep walking and migrate toward a bench a few steps away. As we sit, I take a sip of my coffee, and start to tell her about the time I was in a similar place.

“There was this one day I just couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that God didn’t care about me. It just seemed like he didn’t even really love me. I kept looking at what I had, and looking at what other people had, and it didn’t add up. But you know what happened? I felt the conviction of the holy spirit. He firmly told me to stop comparing, and to look only at what I had.

‘It doesn’t matter what I gave to them. I want you to see what I’ve given you.’ So I tried it, and you know what happened? Slowly, I was overcome with thankfulness for the gift I had. I started to thank him for my gift. ‘Lord, thank you for the musical ability you’ve given me. Thank you for letting me play and sing to you and lead others into worship. This is what I have right now, and I give thanks.’ It changed my heart. Who was I to question why God had or hadn’t done this or that for me?”

I repeated it. “This is what I have right now. This is the only thing I have. This is what you have given me at this time in my life. Thank you. Thank you.

And who knows? What if you being thankful for the small thing you have right now, is actually what will lead you into the fulfillment of those other gifts you have yet to see?”

Life is never fair. That is a hard truth that we have to come to accept, if we’re ever going to get out of the place of comparison.

Comparison will never be good for us in any way. It will always drag us down, make us look at our own selves, take our eyes off of the goodness of our Father.

Comparison alters our view of God, negatively. Comparison attacks our Father’s character. Knowing that, we should fight against comparison, for the sake of our father’s reputation.

The next time you’re in a place where it feels like you’ve been skipped over, mistreated, not chosen for the blessing, or overlooked and ignored by your Father, stop looking to the left and right. Look up, to your father, and then look at what’s in your hands. Thank him for what you see there.

If looking at everyone else’s blessings is dragging you down, stop looking there. Pick your head up, and look at your Father. Look at his heart for you. Recall his faithfulness, and remind yourself of his character. He does see you. He has not forgotten you. He does love you. He will come through for you.

Maybe all you need is a fresh set of eyes to see what’s in your hands as grace. His grace, to you.

He has a good heart.

Practical steps to take when you feel overlooked:

  • Write down 5 things that God has blessed you with today, and then thank him for those things. Speak out loud “Lord, thank you for ___”
  • Ask Him to change your heart and mindset to see his goodness, even in the midst of your confusion and disappointment.
  • Trade your disappointment for his contentment. Literally open your hands and say “Lord, take my disappointment and give me joy.”
  • Go to a place that helps you take your mind off yourself. For me, it’s the ocean. When I stand at the shore of those endless waves, it’s hard to see my own problems, and easy to see that I’ve been selfish.
  • Wake up each morning and do it again. It’s a daily process.

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