Life is Unfair

By Aaron Burke Published on September 15, 2023

We live life forward, but we understand life backward.

This phrase has been revolutionary for my life. It wasn’t until I intentionally looked backward on my life that I began to see every one of those unfair experiences was also a catalyst toward the impact God has made through me. I walk with greater compassion, humility, and dependence on God, simply because life hasn’t been easy.

As I look back, I realize there were intentional choices I made at every unfair season or scenario that caused the events to work together for my ultimate good. I could have sat back, but I leaned in and leveraged each event to move me toward my destiny. I faced lots of failures, but I also had some big wins.

Success will not come from something handed to you, but from how you handle something difficult. This is your unfair advantage.

You can make the hard choice during hard times. Everything worthwhile is uphill. If it is difficult, it is worth doing. Culture has accustomed people to take the path of least resistance. Therefore, few achieve significance with their lives.

Your salvation is free, only available through the gift of grace offered by Jesus on the cross, but your significance is costly. It is accessed only on a road called unfair. It is a journey that is worth taking.

The Unfair Life of Joseph

Joseph lived some seventeen hundred years before Jesus came to earth. Joseph was born to a powerful lineage. God had given his great-grandfather, Abraham, a special promise that his descendants would be God’s chosen people. God reaffirmed this covenant with Joseph’s grandfather, Isaac, and then his father, Jacob.

Joseph was the eleventh son born to Jacob. His name means “he adds” as in “he adds another son.” I wonder if on the eleventh son, Jacob ran out of names and just decided to say, “Here’s another one!”

Not much is said about Joseph until he is 17 years old. Genesis 37:2 says, “Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers.” In short, Joseph had a normal life doing normal tasks any teenager living in Canaan over thirty-seven hundred years ago would have done.

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However, then the Scriptures give us a little insight into the family dynamic, or I might say the family dysfunction — “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph — a beautiful robe” (Gen. 37:3 NLT). I couldn’t imagine favoring one of my kids over another, but if I did, there is no way I would tell anyone about it!

Thus, Jacob let everyone in on the fact that Joseph was his favorite by giving him this special, ornate robe, but the robe did not do what Jacob thought it would do.

I always thought Joseph had an easy path toward success because his father favored him and blessed him with this robe. However, the favor of his father and the special robe weren’t to his advantage. The robe was really just a human attempt at an advantage.

In fact, when Joseph was forced to leave Canaan, the robe never made it out with him, and it was definitely not the tool that made him second-in-command over all of Egypt some 13 years later. His advantage wasn’t his family’s reputation, or his father’s favor, or his special coat.

Success will not come from something handed to you, but from how you handle something difficult. This is your unfair advantage.

From Genesis 37 to Genesis 50, Joseph went on a wild ride. He hit one unfair obstacle after another. For 13 years, Joseph couldn’t catch a break.

Does This Sound Like the Story of Your Life? Be Encouraged

What was difficult ended up being defining. Joseph started with multiple disadvantages: a discouraging past that was filled with frustration, rejection by his brothers, a work environment where he was deeply undervalued, temptation and attempted seduction by his employer’s wife, imprisonment for something he didn’t do — this list goes on. Joseph’s life was full of pain, but in the end, he arrived at his God-given purpose.

Normally, the unfair areas of our lives are the parts we sweep under the rug and try not to think about ever again. This shouldn’t be the case. These areas are crucial to your story and could be the very testimony needed to bring hope to someone else.

You might see your pain as a setback, a weakness, an obstacle, or a problem. My hope is that you soon begin to see how God can use these as a setup for something great. Embrace this journey. It might seem unfair, but you can discover how it is for your advantage.


Aaron Burke (DMin, MBA) is the lead pastor of Radiant Church in the Tampa Bay community. Taken from The Unfair Advantage: 7 Keys from the Life of Joseph for Transforming Any Obstacle into an Opportunity by Aaron Burke. Copyright ©2023 by Aaron Burke.

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