Viewpoint: Life Isn’t Fair, but “Be of Good Cheer”

Contributed By the Church News

  • 15 May 2017

A family walks together in New Zealand.

“Through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for.” —Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Being members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we are taught to believe in truth, justice, and mercy and that good will win in the end. However, in this fallen world, things are not always fair or equal. For some, this is a difficult concept to swallow. At times, great faith is necessary to maintain course and perspective.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call ‘the furnace of affliction’ (Isaiah 48:10; 1 Nephi 20:10). Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).

However, when a person is not rewarded for their efforts or a person with a crippling disease looks at someone with good health, the inescapable urge comes to yell, “Life is not fair!”

In a 2011 article titled “It’s not fair, but why should it be” in Psychology Today, author Mark Banschick says: “As adults our sense of fairness gets offended when we perceive the way people in power seem to get away with things. … Why should some people be born into money while others are born into poverty? Why should some people be healthier, or prettier or more charismatic than others? The world has never been fair.”

So what if life was fair? Our lives might not look like the way we imagine they should be. A marketing flier used by the Canadian Red Cross gives perspective:

“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the world.

“If you have money in the bank, your wallet and some spare change, you are among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy.

“If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.

“If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

“If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.”

In his April 2016 general conference talk, “That I Might Draw All Men unto Me,” Elder Dale G. Renlund said: “If life were truly fair, you and I would never be resurrected; you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair. … Through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for.”

An oft quoted Book of Mormon scripture says, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11).

Jesus Christ, a person sinless and without blemish (see 1 Peter 1:19), is the perfect example of one who deserved none of the injustices that were given to Him in His life. However, these were necessary for Him to fulfill His mission on earth.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell explains: “A good friend, who knows whereof he speaks, has observed of trials, ‘If it’s fair, it is not a true trial!’ That is, without the added presence of some inexplicableness and some irony and injustice, the experience may not stretch us or lift us sufficiently. The crucifixion of Christ was clearly the greatest injustice in human history, but the Savior bore up under it with majesty and indescribable valor” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [1980], 31).

As we seek diligently to become like Christ and be worthy of being called one of His disciples, can we expect for a minute that our lives will not contain a variety of disappointments, some measure of injustice, or an excess of inequality?

At the 1998 BYU Women’s Conference, Sister Sheri L. Dew, then Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, said: “Lucifer whispers that life’s not fair and that if the gospel were true, we would never have problems or disappointments. … The gospel isn’t a guarantee against tribulation. That would be like a test with no questions. Rather, the gospel is a guide for maneuvering through the challenges of life with a sense of purpose and direction” (“This Is a Test. It Is Only a Test”).

We are extremely blessed to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. It brings hope to a troubled world. Christ is the personal antidote we need to find peace in a world that is absolutely unfair. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In the talk “Be of Good Cheer,” given in the April 2009 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson said: “None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy’ (2 Nephi 2:25).

“How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: ‘Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you’ (D&C 68:6).”