My older daughter played in the state soccer tournament this weekend. Her team needed to win the game on Sunday to advance to the semi-finals. The game was tied when her team had a break-away. It was a sure goal. Then the other team pushed our player to the ground. It was an obvious foul. It should have been a penalty kick.
But the ref's whistle was silent. He didn't make the call. It wasn't fair.
Not two minutes later, the defender on our daughter's team was pushed to the ground at the other end of the field. It was a blatant foul, one that led to a goal for the other team.
But the ref's whistle was once again silent. It wasn't fair.
My daughter's team lost the game and didn't get to move on in the tournament. There were tears. There was raging against the ref. There were many cries of "It's not fair!"
The girls were right. It wasn't fair. They should have won that game. If everything had gone perfectly, they would have. But in this particular game, the circumstances stacked up against them. It wasn't fair.
But here's the thing, life isn't fair. If life was fair, there would be no children with cancer. If life was fair, people who commit crimes wouldn't walk free on a legal technicality. If life was fair, our kids would never have to deal with friends who talk about them behind their backs.
But life's not fair. And our kids need to know that. They need to know that even though life isn't fair, it doesn't mean that life isn't good. It doesn't mean that God isn't there. It doesn't mean that it's not worth trying to make things better.
Just like my daughter in her game on Sunday, we have to deal with the hand we're dealt. They couldn't change the referee. We can't change the fact that we live in a fallen world.
What we can do is teach our children to recognize injustice in the world. We can teach them to hurt for the hurting and to fight for those who are the victims of injustice. We can teach them to live out the words of Micah 6:8 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
When we teach our kids to act justly themselves, we teach them to fight injustice. When we teach them to love mercy, we teach them to offer forgiveness and love even when others don't deserve it. When we teach them to walk humbly with God, we teach them how to be used by God. When our kids learn these things they can become champions for those with no voice. They can fight injustice and be the hands and feet of God.
So the next time your child faces a situation that isn't fair, agree with them and remind them that life simply isn't fair. Then point out a larger injustice in the world. Ask your kids to multiply their feelings of unfairness to the larger situation. Then get them thinking about ways to fight that injustice.
Because even though life isn't fair, we can act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.