Recently I had the opportunity to interview a young man who, happening into the wrong place at the wrong time, was incarcerated for eight years for a seemingly insignificant crime of gang fighting. I've known of drunk drivers who were convicted of murder to get off on less time. Not only that, he wasn’t the only guilty one but he alone was singled out of the numerous young men involved. The conservative and quiet community wanted to make an example out him in order to put a stop to any future gang problems. At the time, his sentence seemed very unfair. And the young man was bitter.
Last year, a friend of mine buried her 18-year-old son. While driving under the influence of alcohol, he misjudged a corner, flipping his truck into a ditch. This woman had raised her son on prayer and truth, taking him to church and building a godly heritage into his life as best she could. Why would God let her son die so prematurely and in such an undignified manner? Didn’t her prayers get through for her beloved son? Was God being unfair?
We often make judgments about our lives with human reasoning, trying to make sense out of what we see and understand with such limited perspective, when only God has the big picture. But what if God allows this short term suffering and unfairness with the purpose of leading us to long term mercy? What if God isn’t as concerned about the here-and-now temporal suffering as He is about our eternal freedom and blessing?
The young man who was in prison for eight years began a personal relationship with Jesus through the ministry and investment of a godly man in the community where his prison was located (1,000 miles from home). Now he looks back and feels no bitterness…only gratitude. Without his time in prison he wouldn’t be where he is today—a man set free from the prison of sin and bought back to life from an eternal death sentence.
My friend who buried her son heard from God about her son. God told her in a dream and through a couple other sources that her son’s life was cut short out of mercy. He had a drinking problem that would have likely destroyed his life in much worse ways had he lived longer, and maybe also the lives of others. She has been given the assurance of the reward due her faithful prayer and training as a mom–her son's secure faith and eternal destiny with Jesus.
A perfect man lived 2,000 years ago. He suffered physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in the temporal, so that you and I could be set free in the eternal. Yes, God didn’t even spare His own Son the pain and sorrow of this temporary world. On the contrary, God was the One to inflict the wounds on His only Son so that He could show us His wonderful, amazing mercy. God’s vindictive wrath on Jesus for our sins brought us beautiful, liberating vindication. There is absolutely nothing fair about that, and I’m so thankful!