"What about him?"

By Kristi Bothur © 2012
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” John 21:20-21
When I was still teaching, discipline in the classroom was one of the hardest parts of the job, mostly because I wanted to be completely fair. I didn't want to blame one student for something that another one contributed to. Writing up only one student in a two-person conflict inevitably would bring a wail of protest, "What about him?"
To tell you the truth, I've wailed the same thing to God plenty of times. When I was single and longing to be married, I would look at friends celebrating their anniversaries and wonder, When is it my turn? What about her – you gave her a husband. Why not me?
When I was married and longing to be a mother, I sent up a similar cry. Why can't I have a baby? What about them? They have children. Why can't we?
The cry of our hearts when we ask this question is the same as that of my former students – fairness. We so desperately want life to be fair – maybe because then it makes sense. It's predictable. If we can figure out the formula for success, for happiness, for health, then we can accept it when things don't work out that way – because we obviously didn't follow the formula. And we can be certain that we know what to do to make things turn out the way we want next time.
The trouble is that life isn't fair, and it doesn't make sense. One person follows a healthy lifestyle, and still gets cancer. Another abuses his body and lives to a ripe old age. A stable, married couple struggles for years with infertility, while an unmarried teen-ager has a baby she doesn't want. Two families pray earnestly for their children to be healed of leukemia. One lives, and one does not.
What is the difference? We want to know, so we can do something to change the outcome. The difference, though, is not on the earthly end, but the heavenly one. In John 21:18, Jesus gave Peter a glimpse of how his life would end. We are told that this was "the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God." Peter's immediate response was to point to John and ask, "What about him?"
Jesus' answer to Peter says a lot to me as well: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
First, Jesus clearly wanted something different for Peter than He wanted for John. And that's true for us, too. What He plans or allows for one person is not the same as what he plans or allows for another person. And that's okay, because He's God. And He is obsessed, not with fairness from an earthly perspective, but with love and glory. Peter's death would glorify God. John's long life would glorify God. And both experienced God's love on the path He had chosen for them.
Second, Jesus asked Peter, "What is that to you?" How God chooses to bless others does not limit what He can do in our lives. Our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). There is not a limited number of babies to be born, or a limited number of healing miracles, or even limited finances from God's perspective. He does not need to make sure his books are balanced at the end of the day. How He guides our lives has nothing to do with what he can afford and everything to do with what will bring us the most good and Him the most glory from an eternal perspective. 
Third, what matters on our end is how we follow Jesus. Will we get so stuck in the unfairness of our situation that we no longer follow Him? Or will we go forward with trust, even when the way in front of us is dark and uncertain? Peter did, and the world has never been the same.
Father, so much in life seems unfair, especially when I see others living the life I want. Please help me to keep my eyes on you and to follow you with all my heart without comparing your work in my life with your work in someone else's life. And use me to glorify you in the end. Amen.

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