If You’re In a Committed Relationship But Not Married Why Is It Bad to Have Sex?

Two weeks ago we started our Sex Talk with middle school students. At the end of this first part I did some Q&A with them. The following is one of the questions they asked anonymously on a 3×5 card that I thought would be a great one to attempt to answer and post on the blog.

As these posts have the potential to gain a relatively large audience I recognize that not all who read it share my faith and worldview. If you are an outsider to the Christian faith reading this chances are you won’t agree on principle with my answer. Even so I hope you may find it a well thought out answer.

Question: “If you’re in a committed relationship but are not married why is it bad to have sex?”

Answer: What makes a relationship committed? Is it simply two people agreeing that they won’t date another? Is it two people agreeing that they won’t be emotionally, physically, and sexually intimate with someone else? Committed is defined as, “being bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude.” In marriage you are binding and pledging everything. Property, assets, name, and of course bodies, all legally lawfully bound together. Committed relationships, particularly those of teenagers, are in no way binding except for the fact that they spend a lot of time together, and are therefore exclusive with one another. There isn’t anything keeping them together beyond their affections. Should their affections change they can de-commit by simply, “breaking up”. There is no need to hire lawyers, divide property and assets, or change names back to what they were. Not that committed relationships are bad and should be done away with, but they were never meant to be the Junior Varsity to the Varsity Team that is marriage. Committed relationships are more like tryouts. No one receives nor gets to wear the uniform until the make the team. Sexual intercourse has the potential to bind you to someone in ways that can’t so easily be undone by walking away. The contraceptive industry makes the bulk of their millions by assisting people in a “committed relationship” to prevent being bound to one another via babies and STD’s. The false dichotomy of “casual sex” is built upon the exercise of divorcing your heart and mind from sex as to avoid being bound to someone with your thoughts and feelings. Likewise there is a false dichotomy of “sex within a committed relationship”. A committed relationship is for the purpose of deciding whether or not you want to commit to binding yourself to another for life. Sex then within a committed relationship is to begin binding a big part of yourself to someone while still having the option to “break up” at a significantly lower cost, before you’ve actually decided you want to commit to be bound to only them for life.

What makes sex sex? The Bible teaches that sex is way more than just two bodies joining together for the purpose of experiencing sensual pleasure (even though it doesn’t shy away from that aspect of it). So often the writers of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament writers, referred to sexual intercourse by saying “and they knew one another”. What are the scripture writers saying about what sex is when they refer to it as “knowing” another person?

When I was about 19 years old unmarried and a virgin, a sexually active non-Christian female told me, “If a girl ever tells you she wants you she doesn’t know what it is she’s asking for.” Admittedly I wasn’t quite sure what she meant but I know she, a sexually active unmarried non-Christian was provoking me to think of sex as much more than a physical act and thus something not to tread lightly upon. Honestly I think she was urging and encouraging me not to have sex outside of marriage. Think of the colloquialisms we have for sex today; ‘doing it’, ‘doing the nasty’, ‘afternoon delight’, the list goes on and on, but you’d be hard pressed to find any that capture the fact that when you become “one flesh” with someone there is the potential for something transcendent to happen that leaves you very vulnerable and exposed to the person you’re having sex with. I think that’s what she was trying to tell me. There is a power in sex to help heal our brokenness, to affirm our humanity and therefore it also has power to shame and destroy our humanity as well. There is a huge investment being made when we connect with someone sexually. The promises pledge and complete joining together of marriage is meant to provide the security of pledge and promise that frees us to experience it with our whole being without fear, without holding back any part of our humanness.

What is marriage? Contrary to what popular culture often tells us marriage is not shackles that imprison us to another but the safe confines to not have to keep parts of our self, the parts of us that can’t be quantified in limbs curves and skin, hidden from the person we are giving ourselves to and receiving them in return. Marriage is meant to be the confines within which you can be free to reveal and share all of who you are. That’s not to say that people in committed relationships can’t experience these things. It’s just that the cost to walk away doesn’t match nor correlate with the investment that sex dictates whether you want it to or not. We typically don’t tell engaged couples this when they are nearing the altar but the truth is they can still walk away without it costing them much. Sure the money spent on the wedding has gone down the drain, but they don’t have to divide up property and assets, they don’t have to change their name on legal documents and credit cards, and unless they have children they don’t have to be as concerned with who else it will have a lasting affect on. The reality is that some grown adults have chosen to join every aspect of their lives together as a functionally married couple without the formal and legal ceremony binding them together because so many married people have trudged into and out of marriage as though it were just another committed relationship.

How many committed relationships can one person have? Sometimes I wish I had dated more before I got married. I was slow on the pick up on how much a friendship with a woman and a “committed relationship” with a woman is not apples to apples. However, on the flip side if I had had a number of “committed relationships” how might they have formed me for marriage to my wife in ways that would be counter productive to our binding relationship? I can’t say for certain but she and I would have to take the good with the bad and everything in between. Say I had been sexually intimate in some of those hypothetical “committed relationships” I would have to unlearn, and undo the unique ways I had formed myself with those other women sexually, or bring all those things with me to be bound together with my wife. We often refer to all those things as baggage.

Why is it bad? At the end of the day you can do what you want. Even if you want to soften God’s commands into advisory precautions from the one who created human bodies, sex, and gifted them with this complex thing called intimacy, it’s not hard to see why sex outside of the binding pledge and promise of marriage is risky business. Encouraging young people, still dependent on their parents and under their authority, in particular to go ahead and have sex as long as it is within a committed relationship is as fraught with danger as encouraging the same young people to go to the bank and open a joint bank account. We would discourage teenagers from binding to one another financially no matter how much they thought they were in love or felt that the time was right. Likewise there is great wisdom in discouraging two people, especially teenagers, who aren’t joined and bound together by pledge and law from becoming sexual intimate.

One final thought… I have friends who aren’t Christians who have bound themselves to one another in most ways that married couples do. They have share exclusively with one another their bodies, their home, their property and assets. They are exclusively sharing their life and all of who they are with one another. In all likelihood they will never marry, but their hope is to grow old together. While I don’t approve of unmarried couples living together I treat them as a married couple. Given neither or them are Christians thus not holding the same view of marriage as me I want to encourage them to remain committed to one another for the long haul because that is their expressed desire. While I prefer they eventually make their relationship legally binding at this point I would hate for them to break the bonds they’ve formed together. In some ways based upon my view of how God designed humanity and sex they’ve gone too far in sharing their lives with one another exclusively that I’d hate to see them split and start the process over with someone else. If anything their decision not to marry is largely in response to how marriage is so often treated as a committed relationship. Too many married people don’t honor and value marriage for what it truly is. They see it as a means to be happy, and not as a means to bind them self to another person, and be fully known by them. Many people will end a marriage because they are no longer happy or don’t feel the way the once did. Many people who have pledged themselves to another in good times and bad, for better for worse, in sickness and health no matter what may come, in the sight of witnesses and God, only to leave when their marriage no longer suits them. They aren’t happy, they aren’t satisfied, the marriage is not what they thought it would be and so they break the pledge, the promise and the bond. Could it be that committed relationships while training us in some good ways also forms us to ignore, suppress, and break all the ways we have become bound to another person and muster up the ability to walk away because we’re no longer happy? Imagine how much easier it would be to suppress, ignore and break all bonds if you had done it even a few times since you were a teenager? Sex outside of marriage is not only not the best way to live it is a risky personal investment to make. Why is it bad to have unmarried sex in a committed relationship? Sex outside of marriage is potentially very bad for you.

Why Do Kids Feel So Entitled?

Most people agree that there has never been a generation quite like this current one of teenagers and young adults. More than ever this generation is more in touch with individualism, which is just a nice way of saying they are extremely self-centered.  Sociologists have deemed this group of young people the Me-Generation describing them as confident, assertive, entitled and narcissistic.

Over the last one hundred years there has been subtle shifts in the widely held philosophy of parents to raising their children. Simply put each generation has had a different approach to raising their children based on what they wanted for their children thus determining how they reared them. These descriptions are sweeping generalizations that I believe are indicative of the shifts in our society and culture.

WWI, WWII, and Depression Era (1900-1940s)

This generation didn’t have much growing up. Survival of the family unit depended on everyone playing their part. Discipline was very authoritative and you didn’t question it. It is also important to note that the adolescent stage of human development had just begun to be recognized by sociologists and was considered to last approximately 18 months from the age of 14 and a half to sixteen. With the industrial age in high gear this generation ended up being able to do more than just survive they began to succeed.

Civil Rights And Free Love Era (1950s to 1970s)

The previous generation was expected to listen to and respect those in authority without questioning it and play their role in order to survive. They survived World Wars a depression and had come out on the other side successful. The American Dream took flight as more and more people were becoming the first person in their family to attend and graduate from college. Instead of parenting with unquestioned authority they wanted their children to learn to make good choices that would lead to them being successful by emphasizing the consequences good and bad that came with choices made. They were able to provide for their kids more than just the necessities of life that their parents often struggled to provide. Now they wanted to give their kids the things they never had.

Excess Era (1980s to 1990s)

This generation of parents had gotten things and opportunities that their parents never had. They also had questioned the prevailing standards of the day in the Civil Rights Movement, and the prevailing wisdom and morality with the Free Love Movement. They felt limited and constrained by society that had all kinds of expectations on them. This is the first generation that started to do and try things in that were once not thought wise or prudent in the name of self-discovery. Nothing was held back. They raised their kids in a similar fashion where few things were held back and the self was emphasized. They wanted their kids to have everything they didn’t have or had to fight to get.

Post-Modern Era (2000s to Present)

This generation of parents had gotten everything and they still weren’t happy. They had more opportunities and more things than their parents or grandparents, and they still weren’t fulfilled and satisfied. Authority had gone from being absolute, to being questioned, to being relative. They just wanted their kids to be happy. Right and wrong are no longer about what was best for the survival of the community and family unit. Right and wrong were no longer about what the consequences of the choices that were made. Right and wrong were now about what made you as an individual happy, and didn’t offend or harm others in the process. Self discovery has never been an issue with this generation as they have an innate sense of self that enables them to be a little more direct about what they do and do not like, and will or will not do.

Summary

Long story short in a hundred years we have gone from a parenting style that was dominated by absolute unquestioned authority, where survival was of the utmost, to a parenting style that can be characterized by parents trying to make sure their kid(s) happy. A better life a hundred years ago was largely about being hard working, dependable, and responsible. The better life narrative today is about living life to the fullest moment by moment, which is characterized by the slogan YOLO, you only live once.  A hundred years ago, even thirty years ago young adults knew they would have to work hard to get ahead and be successful. Even the way products were marketed played heavily on the “you deserve this because you’ve worked hard and become successful” line of thought. Today marketers just tell us you deserve whatever it is without telling you why.  And yet the pressure on kids to perform and excel at everything is higher than ever, because elements of hard work, achievement, and success have still been passed along from generation to generation. Or could it be that the happiness of the parents is now wrapped up in the achievements and exploits of their children. Therefore not only do parents want their kids to be happy but also their own happiness is contingent on the happiness and achievements of their children.

When I talked about this in the past it has been with my team of small group leaders in order to think through how we relate to students as adult mentors in Christian living, and yet assert our authority at the same time so they don’t walk all over us. Some kids respect our authority better than others. Some of us had an easier time asserting our authority than others when kids acted out of line. My guess has been that how we were raised and how they are being raised has a lot to do with it.

More recently I have used it as a way of explaining to parents why I suspect that kids seem to be more entitled than ever. There is a number of books on the subject and many of them talk about the transitions and shifts over the last one hundred years in how kids are being reared, and what has been the active objective of parents; survival, have more, have everything, or happiness. Of course we can’t overlook the role of marketing and advertising and how they sell products. Today more often than not we are told that we deserve these things even though they never tell us why or what we did to deserve it. Maybe that is because the American Dream is less about success and achievement today and more about the pursuit of happiness. Just a hunch.

I Really Hate It When…

It’s a fairly harmless question, no ill will intended, and yet it raises the hair on the back of my neck. It’s sometimes an exercise in self-control because I’m tempted to answer sarcastically to make a point and likely offend the inquirer which would achieve nothing. But the fact of the matter is I’m not crazy, I’m not brave, and it doesn’t require courage to take MY group of junior high students out in public on an activity or event. Myself and the other adults that have committed to investing in the lives of young teens who are not our own are regularly affirmed for our bravery and courage to take 30-40 junior high students out to the beach, the mall, wherever, and asked afterwards if we survived. I’ve said it before from the pulpit but I’ll say it again here. We have a good group of kids.

Just this weekend we took 34 of them to the mall to do Christmas Shopping. No one “got lost”, was left behind, was a nuisance, or tempted us to purchase one of those kiddie leashes usually reserved for toddlers. Personally I had a group of 11 of them with me, and it was quite enjoyable and easy. They stayed together, they communicated with me if they were going into another store, they knew where to wait for the rest of the group if they finished in a store ahead of the rest of us. They didn’t complain about little stuff, they were patient with one another, they were polite and courteous of other shoppers, didn’t break anything including the hurricane simulator that they managed to stuff way too many persons into, and no one sneaked out of the movie we went to see as a group. I really didn’t even have to keep track of them because one of them took it upon himself to keep tabs on everyone else (in a way that didn’t get under their skin) and keep me updated on who was in what store in the vicinity that we stopped in.

This past weekend was not an anomaly of their normal behavior when we take them out in public. It is what we’ve come to expect, because that is what they’ve consistently demonstrated. As I said to one of the other adult leaders, “In nearly seven years of working with this group they’ve never given me a reason.” They’ve never given me a reason to be suspicious of them, so naturally I become a little annoyed and even irritated when people talk about them in a way that assumes that they are nothing, but trouble waiting to happen. I’ve been thinking about why I get irritated by inquiries of my survival, and affirmations of my bravery and courage, and here is what I’ve landed on.

1. I can only speak for my group. Common consensus is that Junior High age kids don’t have a long attention span, are combative of authority, are squirrelly and extremely difficult to manage. While I can’t speak for early adolescents universally I can speak for the group that I work with, and I would say that they are a joy to work with. Their attention span can be very long as long as whatever it is their being asked to sit for merits the attention. They thrive with well defined boundaries and feel safe when they know they can trust those in the positions of authority.

2. I don’t know what they’re like at home. But I know that they come from good homes. Whether it be two parent or one parent homes, the overwhelming majority of students I work with come from families with parents who take the role of parenting seriously and are not trying to be their child’s friend. Certainly all of them test their parents at home as is only natural for adolescents. However, many of them are mindful to represent their families well, and have been warned of consequences for not holding to a certain behavioral standard when under the authority of other adults they’ve been entrusted to. I’m thankful that across the board the parents within the local church body I am a part of make our life easier as youth leaders by holding their children to a high standard in the home. I’m grateful that though some students may push it at home with their parents they know how to act when their parents aren’t around, because of their parents.

3. They listen. They hear when you sell them short. This is something that I was guilty of when I was lamenting (on a previous trip) how a previous class spoiled us as adult leaders because there were a handful of them always intuitively stepping up and looking for ways to serve the group (which is uncommon amongst any age group). It got back to me that some of the students overheard this and were a little hurt because they interpreted it as me not being happy with them and not liking them as much. The innocent comments of survival bravery and courage are most often made in the presence of the students and I can’t help but consider the inference they must hear. I imagine that they hear that adults think they are nothing more than wild animals that are hazardous to your mental health. Early adolescents are understandably insecure enough with all the changes they are undergoing without it being inferred that to spend time with them means your very survival is at stake, and requires bravery. The last message any early adolescent needs to receive is that they aren’t normal.

So if you happen to ask me, even in jest, if I survived a youth event, or compliment me on my ‘bravery’ for giving my time to spend with Junior High age students and I hesitate or look puzzled for a moment you know why.

Creating a Pro-Sex Home

Now that the title of this article has gotten your attention let me explain to you what I mean by pro-sex. Is your home a place that promotes healthy sexual lives? No one needs me to give examples of how sexualized our culture has become in America. No one needs me to tell them that the vast majority of sexuality depicted in the media is not consistent with the Christian story of sex. Very rarely are the depictions of sex and sexuality of a married man and woman, and when it is it’s typically a depiction of them not having the time or energy to do it. Add that to a formula of mom and dad only talking about sex when the onset of adolescence forces their hand, what you end up with is a message of “good sex only happens outside of God’s good design”. What we risk happening is that you have many Christians who live obedient lives to God in reference to their sexual lives and yet struggle accepting the reality that they are sexual creatures.

There’s no telling whether or not our society will continue to become more and more sexualized in the coming decades. Though most say things will only get worse we tend to forget that things go in cycles and that our society could experience a retreat from its current hyper-sexual state. Either way children should be raised in homes where they are encouraged to think positively of sex. They need to feel comfortable talking to mom and dad about things related to sex because mom and dad don’t treat it as a taboo matter, moreover because they are aware that mom and dad have actually done it not just to have children. Children need to be prepared to transition into being creatures with a sexual nature without a sense of being grossed out and or ashamed. By sexual creature I don’t just mean a creature that has intercourse, rather I mean creatures with a body that will have an array of things going on inside of it from, facial hair, changing voices, breast development, erections, menstruation, nocturnal emissions to carrying a baby, and sexual intercourse. But even more importantly teenagers need to be prepared to transition into becoming creatures with a growing desire for intimacy of which sex is one component. Even as I typed all of those indicators of a sexually developing man and woman my red flag went up, but why is that? For some reason those things have a certain amount of shame that has been associated with them that if not normalized possibly get in the way of experiencing real intimacy down the road. In reality most if not all those things were a part of Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the garden of which scripture says, “and they were not ashamed”.

I hate to define things by stating what they aren’t, but here is a couple of things that I believe do not promote sex properly. If you are doing these things then your home may not be pro-sex.

  1. The only conversations about sex are quick negative disdainful commentary in response to cultural depictions of sex and sexuality: Instead, when age appropriate from time to time use TV, movies, music, and commercials as an opportunity to constructively critique the message of the story of sex in that piece of media to God’s story of sex.
  2. The only lengthy conversation about sex involves taking the boy on a father son camping trip or taking the daughter out for a girl’s weekend with mom: The first in depth conversation about sex should be had very early on using age appropriate material around middle to late elementary age of 3rd to fifth grade.
  3. Conversations about sex become an awkward dance around trying to figure out what terminology to use for anatomy and fluids because all of it just seems ‘dirty’: Using the technical textbook terminology is often the best way to go and to say it without hesitating helps the conversation feel more natural and less awkward.
  4. Little to no physical intimacy is ever witnessed between mom and dad, which would lead kids to wonder if mom and dad actually find one another physically attractive: Hold hands, snuggle or cuddle up on the couch, exchange a kiss or even flirt with one another a little bit, in view of the kids. Doesn’t have to be all the time, but enough for kids to see that intimacy can be had within a marriage because the vast majority of cultural depictions convey the opposite.

I’m well aware that this is a controversial topic and my frankness in some sections may be concerning coupled with a lack of any positive examples of what I’m trying to encourage. So here is my one golden nugget of wisdom to guide you into creating a pro-sex home. Watch the Cosby Show. That’s right Cliff and Claire Huxstable. I don’t watch tons TV sitcoms, but they nailed it on that show in terms of depicting a pro-sex house. They weren’t over the top in expressing their affection for one another, but it was clear that they loved each other “like that”. They both had careers and responsibilities in and around the home that created stress and ate away at their time. The show rarely ever depicted them in bed together but you knew that they were still intimate.  More than anything teenagers that are starting to develop a desire for intimacy want to know that real intimacy is possible in the home within the confines of marriage.

5 Prayer Paradigm Shifts for Shaping Your Child’s Prayer Life

“Read your Bible and pray,” are the two essential disciplines of the Christian life. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my observation has been that because those two activities are universally assumed every Christian does, they are too often the two things very little time is spent training and teaching people how to do. The result is that many people do them just to check it off the list, and others just stop doing them all together.

For as long as I have been a youth pastor I have made prayer a priority; both the practice of it and teaching students how to do it. I’ve had the privilege of hearing students pray and share what is weighing on their heart. Most students when I get them have been given one of two strategies for praying, or order of operations; P.R.A.Y. praise, repent, another, yourself, and A.C.T.S adoration, confession, thanks, and supplication. I was given the same formula for praying as a student and to be honest as an adult I struggled with it for a while because it was just too formulaic.

A few years ago, reading Richard Foster’s book Prayer, I read a statement that began altering the way I prayed. He simply said something to the effect that prayer is not meant to be a tool by which we shape or bend God to our will, but it is meant to be one of the primary ways God shapes and changes us. The flaw in the way that I exercised the acronym prayer style is that it became a boring routine of going before God’s throne and thanking God for making my life comfortable and happy, repenting of how I may have not earned or squandered away being entitled to a comfy happy life, asking for people I like (and maybe a few I didn’t) to have comfy happy lives (centered in Christ of course), and requesting the same for myself. Even when I dared to permit God to bring a little displeasure and discomfort into my life in my subconscious I was thinking that I would make out big in the long run.

I suspect I’m not the only one who has loathed their prayer life and felt that something was off. Listening to the prayers of students pretty much convinces me of that. My conclusion is that they need better prayers modeled before them. Here is five paradigm shifts for shaping your children’s prayer life. If any of these resonate with you then try making those shifts in your own prayer life. Most importantly don’t be afraid to model it before your kids by praying with them.

 

  1. Praise God for who he is v. Praise God for what he’s done:  I remember trying to make this shift, and discovering that I had been shifted into silence. I was at a loss for words. This is where scripture comes in handy. So many of the scripture writers, especially Old Testament prophets, lauded God continually for who he is. They covered every aspect of his character, not just his love, his power, and his majesty. They understood that the name of the Lord is to be praised. Too often we portray that the actions of the Lord is to be praised.
  2. Asking for signs of God’s kingdom coming and will being done v. Praying for God to simply fix your problems and problems of others: Many of us including myself have been taught that when Jesus returns he will take Christians up to heaven and destroy the earth. On the contrary Revelation 21 paints a picture of heaven coming down to earth, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Isaiah prophesied that when God put everything back to rights heaven and earth would be like new (Isaiah 65.17-25).  All that to say that Jesus doesn’t come to destroy his creation he comes to “make all things new” (Revelation 21.5).
  3. Repent of your state of being v. Repenting of your state of doing: Not that we shouldn’t repent of very specific deeds that we know are disobedient acts against God, but if all we deal with is our behavior we’ve never really gotten to the root of the issue. Our behavior is only a symptom of what is going on in our heart (John 15.18-19).  Even our good deeds are often guided by false motives. We often do good things not simply from a grateful heart but from a heart seeking to (1) justify ourselves before God when Jesus only can do and has done that for us, or (2) we don’t trust God and want to be in control of our life so we behave to keep him at a safe distance.
  4. Acknowledge that every thing belongs to God v.  Asking for things: Psalm 24 is a good place to start where we are reminded that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything it”. It goes on to say what we will receive from God his presence (“blessing”), vindication and righteousness. It ends in a crescendo of praising and honoring the name of the Lord who is the “King of Glory”. If our happiness and joy in life was more anchored in those three things, which God gives graciously and generously, we would discover true happiness and joy that can’t be snuffed out completely by circumstances of life this side of God’s kingdom being ushered in (think paradigm #2 above). Instead we envy the kingdom of other people the glory of which is subject to death and decay.
  5. Acknowledge/recite truth regarding God, mankind, creation and nature v. Sharing what you think about stuff: My prayer life often resembled more of a journal. A running commentary of my day, my encounters, and my thoughts. Not that it is a bad practice because it exposed my heart, but it needed to be tempered alongside the truth regarding all those things. In this case I believe it is a “both and” as opposed to “either or”.

 

In One Ear and Out the Other: Stuff All Parents Say

I have no doubt that I exasperated my mother and father at times as a teenager and even as a young adult. I know this because I can recall particularly my mother saying to me the phrase I’m sure every parent says at one time or another, “It just goes in one ear and out the other”. Which as we all know is just a frustrated way of saying, “you don’t listen to a word I say”. Whether it be advice, instruction, whatever, you haven’t had to parent if you have never felt like your words are completely ignored by your children.

The one that my mother used to always say to me that she felt I never heard was, “do first things first”. I was extremely gifted in the art of procrastination. No one had to teach me how to procrastinate because I was a natural. My gift got in the way of me reaching my potential academically, and my grades suffered. This went on through all of High School and most of college

One day frustrated with the hole that I had started to dig for myself after being granted a tremendous second chance I finally decided to put into practice the thing my mother had been telling me for years, do first things first. I would actually begin to prioritize and order things so that I would be successful, and successful I was.

The reason I tell this story is not to laud praise onto my parents or even myself for finally raising the bar of academic mediocrity and failure that had dogged me for years. The purpose is to encourage any of you parents that find yourselves as exasperated as my mother and father must have been. I want to encourage you with this simple fact that I shared with my mother when she asked what I did differently to turn things around. I finally put first things first. In other words contrary to their belief, their words of advice, instruction, wisdom and encouragement did not go in one ear and out the other. I heard every word. It just took a while before I decided to put it into practice.

You may have reached the point where you hear yourself repeating the same thing over and over to your children and thus feel like a broken record. Don’t lose heart and keep repeating these things that they are too hardheaded or stubborn to do, but don’t believe for one second that they don’t hear you. I’m sure if your honest with yourself you can think back on the things your parents use to tell you all the time much to their exasperation because you too, like your teenager, took forever to apply it. Just as you remembered what your parents said and delayed to apply it, more than likely they will too.

Life Isn’t Fair: Stuff My Mom Said

Over time my sisters and I figured out that it was pretty much pointless to complain about something being unfair to our mother. Rest assured her response was always the same, “Well, life isn’t fair.” We used to hate it when she said that but I’m glad she did, because she is right.

Scripture testifies to the unfairness of life we just so often miss it or are not taught it. This is why I believe so many Christians struggle to understand and live with difficult circumstances in our lives without experiencing a crisis of faith, doubt, or resentment towards God.

Mistakenly we often attribute difficulty in life to God and his will, instead of attributing difficulty in life to where scripture places the blame; the Fall. The Fall is the reason we experience pain, death, sickness, and loss. The Fall has turned a good world and good existence for all of creation into a not so good existence. From a Biblical perspective good isn’t simply pleasure and happiness, good is flourishing. As it pertains to creation flourishing as God intends is meant to be universal. The result of Adam and Eve eating from the tree so that they (so they were led to believe) could be on par with God cannot be overstated. Flourishing totally depends on all of creation being in proper relationship with God and one another. The curses given in Genesis 3 in a way is God allowing for parts, not all, of flourishing to depend on creation being in proper relationship with us, as though we are gods.

The first problem is that there is too many of us (Thus the importance of our Trinitarian theology emphasizing three in one. One only need look to Roman and Greek mythology to see the chaos that ensues from there being more than one God, each of whom has different desires and view of the world than the others). The second problem is that none of us are God nor possess his power to create something out of nothing, to bring life from death, to bring about and maintain complete order from complete chaos.

In other words, bad things aren’t simply brought into our lives by God so that he can teach us something or bring about some good that does little more than maintain a ying and yang balance to the world. Bad things simply happen! They happen because the world is fallen, broken, and things don’t go the way they ought to go. Our cries of life not being fair is little more than us crying out to anyone who will lend us ear that a piece of our life isn’t happening the way it ought, that instead of experiencing flourishing we are experiencing suffering.

Make no mistake, it is not God’s fault, it is our fault. Not in the sense that there was something very specific that we did that directly resulted in this bit of suffering. Rather it is in the sense that humanity was to blame, is to blame, and will be to blame for life not being fair until… Christ returns to put everything right, to judge and to rule, and to make everything new. Furthermore he is not obligated to step in and end our suffering, any part of it, before Christ returns. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t, but he is not obligated to. Nor can we some how earn the right for God to end our momentary suffering. Yes, even physical death for the redeemed is only a momentary suffering. We can pray to God and ask, but he can always say no like he did to Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane/Mount of Olives (Matthew 26.39, and Like 22.39-46).

Speaking of Jesus praying that God remove the cup of his wrath for the sins of mankind, and not pour it out on him, to the point that he was in such agony that even the appearance and strengthening from an angel of God didn’t divert him from praying more earnestly to the point that he was sweating blood. Thank God and praise his name that he wasn’t concerned with being fair in that moment. Cause if God were about what is fair he would have surely answered Jesus’ request with a resounding yes, and we would all be doomed to suffer forever beyond any suffering we will experience her on earth.

God is not obligated to fix every situation, to heal every sickness, to make sure we flourish or prosper every moment of every day of our lives. His goodness doesn’t depend on him stepping in every time, or even some of the time, because Jesus already stepped in when it mattered most. God raised him from the dead and he ascended to heaven where he is able to be present to us amidst flourishing and suffering and all the in between, and present us before God unstained (Hebrews 8.4 and 9.24)

For me this has meant learning to live with suffering, with life not being fair. I understand that suffering is simply a part of life until Christ makes all things new (Revelation 21.4-5).  That suffering difficulty and trials are not an indictment declaring that I have become unjustified, because Christ is my justification. I cannot undo Christ’s justification for me to my detriment or to my benefit. I simply use my faith to embrace a life that says he is my justification (Romans 5.1). Suffering is simply a reminder that Genesis 3 is true and is real.

Someone will surely say, “What about Romans 5.3 that says, ‘suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope’?” To which I would say Paul never says that God brings about or produces suffering to produce all those things in us. For Paul suffering is just a part of life, but God in his sovereignty and great power is stronger than suffering, and can accomplish what he wills even in suffering. Even in life not being fair.

Do you struggle with life not being fair?