Life's Not Fair: Finding Joy by Accepting Things as They Are

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One of the most pernicious lies of the modern world is that life is supposed to be easy and comfortable. There is even a sense in which moderns believe they are entitled to this comfort and ease—that it is some sort of fundamental human right.

Many of us have absorbed this subtle thinking, even though we may not realize it. When trouble comes to us, when life is inconvenient or difficult, we are almost angry at the injustice of it. As if it were some sort of cosmic crime that violates that easy life we believe we should have. We complain and take God to task for upsetting our dreams, a very unkind thing to do.

The fact is, life isn’t always fair. Things aren’t always easy, nor were they meant to be. That doesn’t mean anyone in particular, least of all God, is to blame. Sometimes things just are what they are. And accepting that fact is the first step to real freedom.

Among an older, sturdier generation, there was a saying that could be heard frequently: “Life is hard and then you die.” At first glance, the saying sounds brutal and pessimistic, as if life is one long, miserable slog crowned with the blackness of the void. But looked at in another light, this saying strikes at a deeper truth: It is only when you accept life as it is that you can really live with joy.

People who lived before the advent of mechanized modernity were realists. Far from anticipating a life of air conditioned comfort, they expected that life would be hard, even painful. Making a living would unquestionably involve labor, sweat, and sacrifice. There would be sorrow along the way. Yet far from depressing them, this expectation freed them to enjoy the leisure and simple pleasures they did have more fully. When you expect things to be hard, you enjoy your ease the more.

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